Ireland rocks the Rocky Horror Picture Show

The words “motorbike”, “corset”, “toast”, “transvestite” and “virgin” are usually only found together on a Scrabble board, next to a mug of tea and some chocolate hobnobs.

In the velvet interior of the Sugar Club in Dublin however, motorbikes, corsets, toast, transvestites and virgins converge at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, all wigs and stilettos, suspenders and fishnets. And that’s just the men.

Photo by Sebastian Dooris, June 2009, The Sugar Club, Leeson St

Photo by Sebastian Dooris, June 2009, The Sugar Club, Leeson St

Anyone who has ever been frowned upon in a cinema for munching their popcorn too loudly will find a spiritual home in the madness of the regular screenings of the cult 1970s B-list midnight movie at the Sugar Club.

On stage, the master of ceremonies is Wexford-born Sarah Cleary, a PhD student in Controversial Horror at Trinity College by day and a willowy blonde dressed to kill on Rocky Horror nights.

She is whipping the crowd into a frenzy more suited to a wrestling match than a cinematic viewing. “At the back of the room, you’ll find cages you can lock your significant other until the end of the night,” she yells, setting the tone for this Anti-Valentine’s evening.

“Are there any virgins in the room?”

A handful of newbies gingerly rises, admitting to the world that it’s their first Rocky Horror experience. They are greeted with roars of approval.

“If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t know till you wake up on Monday!”

There are no cages as it happens but there are cocktails for a fiver. A Jameson, cranberry and grenadine “Sweet Transvestite” in one hand and a paper cup full of rice in the other, the crowd is ready to pounce.

Rocky Horror Picture Show events are more than a screening. They are a theatrical performance where the audience is part of the show. The film has had a cult worldwide following since the play was adapted to screen in 1975 and the Irish fan club is one of the most active in the world.

The film is a parody of nearly 30 years of B-movies, science fiction and horror films. It’s the story of a newly-wed couple, Brad and Janet, who find themselves stranded in a forest at night and stumble upon the “Annual Transylvanian Convention” by accident.

Wearing nothing but underwear, they are thrust into the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite” from Transsexual, Transylvania. Dancing, murder, birth, cross-dressing, cannibalism, sensual orgies and an alien visitation ensue, in a rollicking mix of gore, horror and hilarity.

On one hand the film asks questions about sexual identity and our acceptance of difference. On the other hand it’s just an excuse to have a good time.

“To quote Dolly Parton, it takes a lot of money to look this cheap”, says Sarah. “It’s the best night of innocent fun you will ever have.”

On stage, actors re-enact each scene as the public shouts along over the sound-track, which results in a deafening mix of sound and sights.

People fling rice, shelter under newspapers as the room is sprayed with water pistols and flock around the stage to perform the “Time Warp” dance. It’s relentless. It sounds and looks like the inside of a carnival nightclub.

In this world, it’s perfectly normal for a rocker to ride in to the Sugar Club on a motorbike to find a crowd of sweet transvestites in corsets and Janets in their underwear flinging toast at Rocky “virgins” to pop their cherry.

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About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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