Monday, 4 April 2011

Belfast’s unconventional conventionalists

I spent most of my workday last Thursday in a state of excited antici... pation. That joke will either be completely lost on you or you’ll instantly know what we were up to. Or, if you also happen to read my husband’s blog, you’ll know already regardless of your knowledge of Transexuals from the planet of Transylvania. Yes, we were off to Rocky Horror.

I’ve been at least peripherally aware of the Rocky Horror Picture Show since early childhood – I remember my sister and I repeatedly insisting that the DJ at my uncle’s wedding play the Time Warp for example – but I never really fully appreciated it until a few late night viewings in the latter end of my teens. Note I don’t say that I never fully understood it – I’m fairly sure there must be parts of Rocky Horror that even Richard O’Brien doesn’t fully understand and he wrote the thing – but it’s definitely compulsive viewing and listening no matter how bonkers the plot or its characters may be!

I think you also need a fairly open mind to appreciate it. I have a colleague who’s a little on the naive side who recently told me she was horrified when she watched Rocky for the first (and only) time, to the extent that she was even a little wary about watching Glee’s interpretation, bless her. Another colleague who is also a little, well, on the moral side, said she had never seen it but would never watch it just from its description. Ah well, I’ll be happy doing the Time Warp with my fellow sickos and perves then!

It was in this mindset that I nearly imploded with excitement when I read the Belfast Film Festival’s programme for 2011 and saw that on opening night the Black Box were hosting a Q&A with Patricia Quinn (owner of the famous lips in the opening scene of the movie and also plays Magenta) followed by a screening of the film.

I’m generally quite blasé about celebrity sightings because unlike the majority of the Heat Magazine-reading, Jordan-obsessed UK I believe they’re just human beings like me and thee. No pedestals here I’m afraid. But it still seemed like it would be quite cool to see how different someone you’ve seen so often as a fictional, singing, incestuous alien on your TV screen looks forty years later and without the maid’s outfit or spacesuit. Plus I’m always up for an excuse to dress up with fellow crazies. So at the first available opportunity the tickets were booked and, much to the Yorkshireman’s consternation, the costume-planning began.

I’ll spare you the ins and outs of how difficult it is to find a decent Rocky Horror costume on a budget and the related last-minute mail-related ups and downs. However suffice to say by the evening of the event itself I had a black PVC mini dress and some fishnet tights in my bag. The Yorkshireman copped out and bought a Rocky Horror t-shirt, even declining my simple request that he wear fishnets tights underneath his work trousers in addition. Men... tisk! I mean, I do not have the body to be wearing a tight, short PVC dress in public, but it’s the spirit of the thing! I mean the film is all about expressing yourself (well, that and the transient morals of mankind), so you’re really obliged to let it all hang out. Or to contain it all in fishnets. Either will work.

So, after a quick pint of Guinness at the Duke of York and then an absolutely delicious dinner at Hooligan (seriously, you have to try this place), I donned my outfit of shame and, eternally grateful for my knee-length coat, headed around the corner to the Black Box to meet our friends. They had done us proud on the costume-front and so, suitably attired and with our names checked off the list, we headed in to a wonderland of darkness, fairy lights and red and black. Perfectly Rocky!

However when I went next door to their café to order my tea-total friend a latte it appeared that there was a totally different vibe in there. A couple of cool arty types were performing live, laid-back music in the corner to a group of similarly cool-looking arty types, all of whom were giving me odd sideward glances. Meanwhile I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the latte, all the while standing next to a bemused-looking elderly lady who probably thought I was in for a quick caffeine hit before I began a night of hooking around the Cathedral Quarter. However if she had ventured next door she would soon have discovered that I was far from the worst culprit. Some Rocky fans really go all out! I wonder whether she would have been most disturbed by the Magenta whose skirt didn’t quite cover the important areas, the blood-stained, scrubs-wearing Frank N Furter or the seven feet tall Usherette with the most amazing blonde beehive wig I have ever seen.

Anyway, having obtained the latte and given the elderly lady one more rueful, I’m-not-a-prostitute-honestly smile, it was back into insanity for me. The evening was everything I expected and more. Patricia Quinn was delightfully quirky (and I suspect, quite pissed) and the interview was thankfully not too long. With a parting shot of “let there be lips!” it was time for the show, much to the delight of the Rocky fans in attendance. Patricia’s lips, her billing page on the cast list and her famous line, “You're lucky, he's lucky, I'm lucky, we're all lucky!” all got enthusiastic cheers but as always it was the Time Warp that had everyone (except the Yorkshireman and a couple of other boringheads!) on their feet. It’s amazing how many people (myself included) will attempt a bit of tap dancing during Columbia’s Time Warp scene despite having no tap ability whatsoever. Essentially it was a room full of people jumping up and down and making their high heels click on the floor a lot - great craic!

One of my favourite bits about watching Rocky Horror with a group of fans is the audience participation. There are whole scripts out there in Interwebzland but unless you’re really hardcore there are only a few that are always said, for example when Brad’s name is mentioned by the Narrator you shout “asshole!”, when Janet’s name is mentioned you shout “slut!” and when Doctor Scott’s name is mentioned you shout “sieg heil!” However the audience are also perfectly entitled to make up their own lines and often people will shout out something you’ve never heard before. Depending on the person (and often their alcohol consumption) it can be hilarious or really not funny at all, but in the latter case it’s fairly evident from everyone else’s reaction (or lack thereof) that they should shut the hell up already and most times they do. You don’t want to cross a Rocky audience – you may not live to tell the tale mwahahahaha!

By the end of the night I was all danced out, my throat was hoarse from singing along and I was keen to get home and out of my fishnets, but I had a brilliant time. So that was event number one from my Belfast Film Festival list. Event two is later this week and I have another costume of sorts planned, even if this one is not quite so provocative! This outfit should be fairly work-safe. Evidently I never grew out of the dressing-up stage when I left primary school, but I figure you only get out of an experience what you put into it. Now just to locate some transparent rubber tubing, faux meercat fur and glittery fairy wings. Just kidding... or am I?


  1. I really enjoyed this little story of your rocky horror adventure! =) I am a part of a live performing cast in Illinois and just found out last week that on October first Patrica Quinn and Barry Bostwick will be at our show.. And we are doing a really double feature, 10pm and 12am. I am super stoked and so glad to hear that Quinn was quirky and enjoyable to meet as I will be performing for her. >.< I'm nervous, but I am also just glad I won't be magenta or brad that night. I am glad you got out for old times sake and enjoyed RHPS. I love hearing these cute stories like these..

  2. Wow I hope you have a really great night! Just enjoy it and have fun... and good luck!