Sparkly corsets, gold booty shorts, and high heels are all things any good rendition of The Rocky Horror Picture Show should have.
Last Wednesday, I attended a Rocky Horror shadowcast at Hart House. Hosted by UC Follies, a St. George-based student theatre troupe, the performance adhered to everything a traditional Rocky Horror shadowcast should include: commentary, props, and a whole lot of skin.
Directed by Jocelyn Kraynyk and Mike Dineen, the shadowcast was a fun twist on a classic performance. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a shadowcast is a performance that involves live actors mimicking the motions of a film while it plays behind them. Although props were both scarce and meager, UC Follies made great use of what was available to them.
Two days after Halloween, UC Follies premiered the first of two shadowcast performances at Hart House. Last Wednesday was cold and rainy, mirroring the scene in Rocky Horror where Janet Weiss and Brad Majors find themselves knocking on a castle door in the middle of nowhere.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cult classic directed by Jim Sharman. It stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick. After its release in 1975, this glam rock parody of the classic haunted house genre was received as a risqué, overly sexual film. Rocky Horror toys with gender, sexuality, and plot. For instance, Dr. Frank N’ Furter (Tim Curry) is a transgender doctor who creates the perfect “boy toy” in his lab, who he names Rocky.
The cast acted out each scene of the movie from beginning to end while the film played on a projector in the background. The cast made great use of their space in Hart House, especially its historic tower. When Janet (Lorraina Roth) and Brad (Alex Pompilii) first approach the mansion, they see Riff Raff (Crissy Voinov) peering through the small window of the Great Hall’s tower.
As the show progressed, people began yelling slurs at the screen. In traditional performances of Rocky Horror, it’s normal for the audience to shout at the actors and even throw rotten fruit at them. This explains why people were yelling “slut” whenever Janet spoke, or “asshole” at Brad.
UC Follies also sold prop bags. All proceeds from the bags went to Covenant House. Although I wasn’t planning to open mine until the show started, I ended up cracking into it early. The show was meant to start at 9, but we weren’t even seated until 9:30. I had to distract myself during the wait somehow.
My bag contained a newspaper, toast, a party hat, toilet paper, and rubber gloves. An odd assortment, right? However, each prop served a purpose. For example, when Frank N’ Furter snaps his rubber gloves, the audience must snap the rubber gloves provided in the bag.
One thing that made this performance so fun was how the UC Follies crew encouraged audience integration. When “Time Warp” came on, MCs Rebecca Chess and Mike Dineen told the audience to stand up and join the actors in “jumping to the left and stepping to the right.” Everyone stood up and danced. Despite the rocky start, including a long delay and never-ending technical difficulties, the audience’s energy picked up.
One of my favourite features in this performance was the actor behind our transgender ringleader, Manoosh Tavakoli. Tavakoli was the perfect fit for the evil scientist from “Transsexual Transylvania.” Tavakoli’s costume fit like a glove (no pun intended), and resembled Curry’s outfit perfectly. In the last scene, Tavakoli rocked the timeless red sparkly corset. Moreover, Tavakoli’s thick black hair looked just like Frank N’ Furter’s classic locks. He was undeniably the star of the show.
Rocky (Nicholas Higgins) was another strong feature of the play. It was obvious that Higgins comes from a dance background. Dressed in skin tight, golden booty shorts, Higgins pirouetted across the stage. In one instance, Higgins slipped on water previously thrown into the audience by Tavakoli. Higgins expertly played it off, making the fall look natural.
My favourite moment of the play was the final scene, where Frank N’ Furter floats in a pool. Although the props were minimal, the Transylvanians (Breanna Pratley, Kate Differ, Rachel Bannerman, Natalie Mansilla and Ivana Vidakovic) waved blue sheets close to the ground to replicate water. Tavakoli, mouthing the words and swooning, stood amidst these ethereal blue sheets as “Don’t Dream It Be It” played overhead.
Sadly, one of the negatives of the evening fell to the technical difficulties, which didn’t stop throughout the performance. The movie kept pausing to buffer. However, the actors paused along with the movie, no matter how hard or long the position. The cast’s adaptability demonstrated how well-rehearsed the performance was.
UC Follies’ depiction of Rocky Horror was well-rehearsed and enthusiastic. I don’t think the actors could have been more energetic. There was even an open bar and snacks during intermission. The location was great, the vibe was spooky, and the costumes were colourful. However, the underlying technical difficulties definitely put a damper on the evening.