Devisors: The Company
Director: Tom Brennan
Reviewer: Kris Hallett
Picture the scene, you’re settling back to enjoy the trailers before the main feature at the multiplex and the screen goes blank and the reassuring deep boom of the American link man begins ”From the people who brought you Home Alonely, Muppits Die Hard and Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears comes a new, dark, sexy and most decidedly adult festive extravaganza, Rocky: A Horror Story. It’s enough to make you grab your credit card and immediately make a purchase for its opening weekend. Such has been the success of the Wardrobe Theatre’s alternative Christmas show, no longer a Bristol secret judging by its packed-to-the-afters first Friday night crowd.
The premise is so simple it makes you wonder why smaller theatres all over the country aren’t in the market for their own alternative, a splicing together of two much-loved movies to make something wholly original, smart and a bit naughty all in one. This year the Rocky Horror Picture Show makes a territorial landgrab of Rocky and makes us see both films in brand new ways. Never again will Apollo Creed strut to the ring for his big title fight, without the image of him in red frilly French knickers bending over against a wall trying to hide entering your head. Never again will Adrian be just a bookish love interest for Rocky,but a women who wants to take charge of her sexuality, a woman who thinks nothing of sitting on her man’s main rivals face. Rocky doesn’t just have to step into the ring for a world title fight and for the heart of his beloved but to save the whole of humanity from a devious plot.
Yes, it is undoubtedly silly but there is also real smarts behind the piece, loving satire on these classics of 70’s genre cinema with enough digs at current click bait, Trump locker room chat, the fear of ‘others’, that it more than fulfils the Christmas show criteria of ticking off the big moments of 2016 as well. These shows have always been a great concept but what has become evident since the theatre’s move to its own base at the Old Market Assembly is the polish that now has gone into it. It’s still the little sibling of Bristol in terms of financial clout but under the direction of Wardrobe Ensemble member Tom Brennan and with composer Tom Crosley-Thorpe’s riotously entertaining tunes it more than makes up for it in inspiration.
Katy Sobey’s Rocky is the straight man in this chaotic world and has the same every man charm of Stallone to keep us rooting for him while another loanee from the Wardrobe Ensemble, James Newton, makes a striking and scarily accurate portrayal of Adrian who, just like Janet. discovers her own sexual identity in the deviance of Creed. The regulars of these Wardrobe Christmas’ now have this style down pat and shine. Emma Keaveney-Roys deadpans everything to the max as Riff-Raff while Harry Humberstone as the cross-dressing ‘woorrrlld champion’ might as well be charged with a felony so easily does he steal the show, a delightful mix of Bowie, Jagger and Richards with enough sex appeal to turn even this straight reviewer curious.
There are perhaps one or two dead moments, earnestness feeling a little out-of-place with the bonkers premise, but there are laughs aplenty, not the polite laughter of the theatre crowd but real genuine guffaws from an audience with a drink in hand and ready to have a good time. It may be only the beginning of the Christmas season but this is one seasonal highlight you shouldn’t miss.
Runs until 15 January 2017 | Image: Contributed