Sian Ellis enjoys a livelier than usual screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
October 17, 2015
Although many have scoffed at their higher than average ticket prices, the live theatre broadcasts are proving that they’re worth every extra penny. Maxine Peake’s outstanding performance of Hamlet at Manchester’s Royal Exchange surpassed the reaches of its sell-out crowd when it was broadcast to cinemas late last year. November will see The Showroom broadcast James Franco and Chris O’ Dowd’s eagerly anticipated portrayals of George and Lennie in their upcoming Broadway production of Of Mice and Men.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was the latest West End offering adopted by no less than three Sheffield cinemas. Straight from the moment we tottered into the Odeon wearing our Poundshop red wigs, maid outfits and leather shorts it became clear that there were two camps of people at this theatrical performance – those who thought they were at the theatre, and those who thought they were at the cinema. The theatre crowd sat excitedly at the front in basques, sneaking vodka into their popcorn counter bought Pepsis, whilst the cinema crowd slinked quietly to the back in jeans and t-shirts. Physically and mentally there was a divide. So, off to the front we swanned.
Then it began. The first singable song (in my opinion) began: ‘Damnit Janet’. Wait…. What do we do? Is it ok to dance? To sing? Should we clap at the end? Or should we sit here in silence as we would if this was the showing of the latest blockbuster? We didn’t know the rules and we were torn. So for Damnit Janet we sat in silence and observed. Not much movement anywhere in the room. The front row were exhibiting a few of the props that they had bought but when you looked behind this was a regular cinema audience and they weren’t budging. One nil to the cinema crowd.
It wasn’t long, however, until the one song that we all knew was going to make or break the evening began: ‘The Time Warp’. For the theatre crowd this was the point at which you showed what you were made of. I think that those sneaky vodkas were working their magic because after some hesitation one by one, like meerkats, the theatre crowd shot up out of their seats, arms to the sky and caution to the wind. I can vouch from this experience that you haven’t felt true liberation until you’ve got on your feet in suspenders and a sequined top hat and time warped in front of people in their civvies all set for a quiet night at the cinema. If you haven’t done that, you haven’t lived. It was the boost of adrenaline that we theatregoers needed. We continued to sing, clap, whoop and cheer with every subsequent song, at every celebrity cameo and at each shoutout from our brothers and sisters in the audience on screen.
By the time the last ‘Time Warp’ performance began we couldn’t care less about everybody sat down behind; they were the ones missing out. However, to my delight and surprise a swift check over my shoulder revealed a room full of people on their feet thrusting and singing to their hearts content. The cinema crowd had scored an own goal in the last minutes of play and the theatre crowd had won the game. We’d all experienced something few cinema goers have experienced before: an interaction and connection with our fellow audience members. We were no longer disjointed groups of people. We were our own Sheffield cast of performers.
Where I hope that these screenings help to give the theatre that boost of life it’s been longing for after years of a popularity decline, I also hope that they can help to rejuvenate the usually passive cinema crowd from consuming hour after hour of pre-recorded films, in the presence of others, yet somehow still alone.