As October comes to an end, so does everyone’s favourite campy horror musical: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In St Andrews, it is the first time in two years that the Musical Theatre Society (MusT) has been able to put on their production of Rocky Horror—thanks, Covid—and the excitement is palpable.
I sit in on the rehearsal in the Students’ Union’s Canada Room on a rainy Wednesday evening as the cast and crew prepare themselves for Saturday’s debut. They kick off with a group session of Rose, Thorn, and Bud—describing the best part of their day, the worst, and what they are looking forward to—where everyone’s “bud” is the show. No doubt they’re buzzing.
The rehearsal gets started from the top, and the ensemble are nothing short of wonderful in the musical’s debut number, “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” transitioning swiftly into “Dammit, Janet,” where leads Janet (played by Geena Zoubarev) and Brad (Vil Rakauskas) get engaged and subsequently enter the world of Rocky Horror as their car gets a flat tire.
I am genuinely impressed by how well put together the performance is in this rehearsal; the ensemble in particular are putting their all into this and dancing with amazing precision – “Time Warp” especially is just so enjoyable to watch that I could not help but sing-along with the cast from the sidelines.
The rehearsal is unequivocally stolen by Villith Grimm, who plays Dr Frank-N-Furter. When “Sweet Transvestite” begins and Grimm enters the stage, it feels like the show really gets started; the confidence and poise with which Grimm performs rivals that of Tim Curry, and really makes you forget you are actually just sitting in the Canada Room. Even tonight, which is just a rehearsal, it is clear how much the cast are enjoying themselves; director Maeve Slack-Watkins rides a scooter across the stage at one point during “I Can Make You A Man,” wearing a massive grin, and it is hard not to smile along. Student theatre has been absent from our lives for so long that this rehearsal means more than just getting the lines right.
I had the opportunity to chat with Grimm and director Maeve Slack-Watkins about the production, and what makes it so special.
The Saint: What’s been the best thing about being involved in this year’s Rocky Horror production?
Maeve Slack-Watkins: The cast, definitely. I mean, I love these guys so much. Look at how beautiful they are! And also my beautiful, wonderful production team. Like, they make it worth getting through. I love them.
The Saint: How does it feel to be back on stage after an 18 month hiatus?
Slack-Watkins: Stressful. Scary. [Laughs] It’s my first time back in a while. I was in Addams Family, but that got cancelled because of Covid. So our show couldn’t go up. But now we’re here, it’s gonna go up… It’s my first time directing and I’m so excited because we have the best cast. I was actually in Rocky in first year; I was in an ensemble with Villith who’s now playing our Frank.
The Saint: What makes this year’s Rocky Horror production different to past productions that MusT has put on?
Slack-Watkins: It’s a lot campier. A lot more… just for fun, just for the gag. Just basically going to be a lot more silly, over the top.
Villith Grimm: Yeah. And I think, for me, Rocky is about unbridled queerness. And I think this production, unlike any production I’ve seen of Rocky before, is extremely, viscerally queer.
Slack-Watkins: Mhm. I mean, directed by a queer person, and we’ve got queer people on the team, so definitely.
The Saint: Which part of the performance are you most looking forward to and why?
Slack-Watkins: All the ensemble dance numbers. I mean, “Time Warp,” “Science Fiction”… it’s going to be amazing. They’re so talented, like I cannot… I cannot begin to describe how much I love this cast. And also, every moment that Villith is in. [Laughs]
The Saint: And finally, what does Rocky Horror mean to you?
Slack-Watkins: Being unashamed of your sexuality and owning it. And owning who you are, and saying, “fuck anybody else who wants to tell me how to be. I’m going to be myself, no matter what you say.”
The rehearsal on which the cast and crew graciously allowed me to sit in was hilarious and, as promised, camp to the nth degree. I cannot imagine how wonderful the actual performances will be; I am confident that the audience will have an absolute scream of a time.