Rocky Horror 'Equal-Sequel' Gets World Premiere

By James FitzGerald Last edited 37 months ago
Rocky Horror 'Equal-Sequel' Gets World Premiere ★★★★☆ 4

Adam Rhys-Davis, Julie Atherton, Mateo Oxley and Nic Lamont in Shock Treatment. Image courtesy of Peter Langdown.

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Before the Rocky Horror Picture Show, there was the plain old Rocky Horror Show. The film was spawned from the stage musical, which had been cobbled together upstairs at the Royal Court in 1973 on a shoestring, and ended up doing all right for itself, didn’t it?

Shock Treatment was a case of ‘difficult second gender-bending camp sci-fi send-up set to rock and roll’. So far, the fate of this work — billed tonight not as a sequel, or a prequel, but as an ‘equal’ — has had none of the canonical ascendancy of Rocky. Yet it has all the wit, thrusting innuendo and offbeat musical stylings.

It tells of Janet and Brad (Julie Atherton and Ben Kerr), the lost couple of Rocky Horror — now married and unhappy. They stumble into a cheesy reality TV show in their American hometown of Denton. Unaware of a fresh horror, this “car crash couple” is pounced on by the vampiric telly-makers, with Janet persuaded by quacks that Brad needs a course of electro-shock therapy, and that the key to her own happiness is a series of makeovers. (“You put the ‘cute’ in ‘acute emotional distress’!”)

Fame, sexuality, image — all such topics are probed in a set of rollicking numbers. Unlike Rocky, Shock Treatment entered this world as a film, in 1981, which bombed. It took tonight’s director Benji Sperring a full decade to convince writer Richard O’Brien to allow him to convert it for the stage.

This King’s Head production, then, is the ‘world premiere’. For that historic quirk alone, the show is well worth a watch. Yet even more compelling is the 34 year old Shock Treatment’s rather convenient prescience.

O’Brien appears to have been persuaded to let this gloriously outré and sharp satire take the stage because it arguably makes even better sense now than it did in 1981. The world of Shock Treatment is all about the artifice and irony of a talentless TV talent show: desperado presenters like Betty and Ralph Hapschatt (Rosana Hyland and Mateo Oxley), doctors who turn out to be worse than merely phoney (Adam Rhys-Davis and Nic Lamont) and, at the top the pyramid of shame, an unscrupulous Australian media mogul who’ll do anything for ratings (Mark Little).

And that was in 1981?

Did someone say ‘Time Warp’?

Shock Treatment runs until 6 June 2015 at The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, N1. Tickets from £10. Londonist saw this performance with a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 22 April 2015