Richard O’Brien streams Rocky Horror to a cinema near you

Richard O'Brien
Richard O'Brien
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IT was great when it all began... that was on June 19, 1973, when The Rocky Horror burst onto the stage of London’s Royal Court Theatre (Upstairs) for the very first time.

Some 42 years later, Richard O’Brien’s cult musical is better than ever, as evidenced by a live, star-studded, one-off performance due to be streamed to cinemas around the country from London’s West End tomorrow - fans of Frank’n’Furter in the Capital should don their fishnets and head to either Vue Omni or Ocean Terminal.

“There’s a clause in my contract with 20th Century Fox which allows me to do this and now seemed like the ideal time,” says O’Brien, when asked the reason behind the screening in aid of Amnesty International.

He’s being modest. O’Brien, who is currently playing The Narrator in the West End production (which tours to the Playhouse early next year) will share his starring role during the broadcast with Stephen Fry, ex-Spice Girl Emma Bunton and Great British Bake Off’s Mel Geidroyc.

So how did they manage to get such a stellar line-up?

“You ask them. It’s as simple as that. You ask them and they either say yes or no,” says the man known to fans of the show as The Master.

Fry certainly didn’t have to be asked twice. He reveals. “I’ve been a devoted fan of The Rocky Horror Show for most of my life and I have been proud to support the incredible work of Amnesty International for just as long, so to be joining Richard and the cast on stage for this special evening is a dream come true.”

Bunton adds, “I am so excited about being involved. Richard O’Brien has written something that is a huge part of British culture. I’m looking forward to shaking my tush to the Time Warp.”

For anyone still unfamiliar with The Rocky Horror Show, it’s best described as a sexy, humorous tribute to the sci fi/horror B movies of the late 1940s and 50s.

It tells the story of newly engaged, all-American couple Brad and Janet, who find themselves seeking assistance at the home of a transvestite scientist when their car breaks in ‘the middle of nowhere,’ during a storm.

Enter a menagerie of weird and wonderful creations and cue such cult classics as Sweet Transvestite, Science Fiction and, of course, The Time Warp.

For O’Brien, playing The Narrator has brought him back to the show in which he originated the role of Riff Raff and even once, at The Playhouse many years ago, played Frank’n’Furter.

“I also played the Usherette in Wimbledon for a week,” he laughs. “That was interesting... very Joanna Slumley.”

The youthful 73-year-old, now domiciled in New Zealand, returned to the UK stage at London’s Playhouse last Friday, where he was met by a five- minute standing ovation before he uttered a single word.

“They made some noise didn’t they? I think it’s just because I’m so old and am still here,” he laughs. “But it’s lovely to come back and catch up and see what has changed and equally, what has stayed the same.

“I have a club I go to and I popped in the other day for the first time in two years, there was the same wee man playing the piano.

“It was as if I had only been away for a few minutes.” Slick and with arguably the strongest cast for a number of years (including West End star David Bedella who returns for one last stint as Frank’n’Furter, (“He has that mouth that fills the stage, the grin from ear to ear,” says its creator) the current production is selling out fast, making the screening a must see.

“It’s tight isn’t it? The production values are so high. Technology has come a long way. Before, you could just dim or raise the lights, they were fixed and hot to work under. Now you have all these different cold lights that allow you to change the colours and there are so many moving lights. It’s astonishing what they can do with lighting today.

“It’s the same with sound. When I did Hair, each instrument in the band had an individual mic and you had to sing over that. There were float mics and boom mics suspended above which would pick you up, but you still had to be heard above the band.

“Now each person has their own personal mic and there’s a desk to mix the sound. There’s no comparison.”

However, one thing that continues to irk O’Brien is the show’s famous audience participation, which finds fans shouting their own lines in response to those of the actors.

“I do wish they wouldn’t shout out quite so much. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but it could do with a little bit less. A lot of it is unnecessary, there’s enough innuendo written into the script... it doesn’t need to be shouted out,” he argues.

Not that he minds if a retort is genuinely clever.

“But if you are going to try to be clever, then you have to be clever,” he insists.

“For example; when I say the line ‘...badly in need of some air,’ they shout, ‘So is your neck.’ Well that doesn’t really apply. That was for Charles Gray, the Narrator in the film, because Charles’ head sat on his shoulders. It doesn’t translate any more. It’s just silly. It’s tiresome actually.”

However, as the outrageous musical continues to be O’Brien’s signature masterpiece, you get the impression the man himself enjoys a far more sedate lifestyle.

“I didn’t have any ambition to be on stage,” he confesses. “It’s something that they asked me to do because they wanted to do this live streaming of the show into cinemas. Adding me into the mix brought a little bit of something to it and I was very happy to do that, but being in the limelight has never been my reason for living, I’d rather be at home writing songs.”

The Rocky Horror Show Live, Vue Omni and Ocean Terminal, tomorrow, 6.45pm, £15-£16.50,