Dohyun Gracia Shin

[Theatre Review] The Rocky Horror Show 본문

Theatre Reviews/Eng

[Theatre Review] The Rocky Horror Show

Gracia Shin 2017. 7. 21. 22:34

The Rocky Horror Show. Book and Lyrics by Richard O’Brien. Music by Richard O’Brien. Directed by Lufina Oh. Hongik University Daehakro Art Centre, Daehakro Seoul, Korea. 26 May 2017 ~ 6 August 2017.




             “I’m just a sweet transvestite!” After eight years of absence, The Rocky Horror Show (2017) has returned to Seoul. With its famous lyrics, The Rocky Horror Show has captivated numerous theatre-goers with the infamous but glamourous cross-dresser from Transsexual Transylvania planet. Due to Frank N. Furter being a notable and spectacular vice in the play, it is often charged as Wendy Hsu argues: being “mere spectacles with no points of empathy.” In her argument, it is assumed that The Rocky Horror Show is reinforcing the hegemony of heteronormativity by consuming Frank N. Furter as a mere vice spectacle to be enjoyed and objectified. This argument may be accepted in some sense, considering Judith Butler’s notion of “de-realization.” For the reality, The Rocky Horror Show and the performance of Frank N. Furter are just an act which is distant from the reality, which does not threat the audience their social normativity. Although it is true that The Rocky Horror Show has certain aspects to be read so, it is comparably re-considerable evaluation, thinking the context of its genre. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the film version of The Rocky Horror Show, has not stopped mocking hegemony aspects of American culture until today as the longest-running film in its history. At the moment, in somewhere around the world, The Rocky Horror Show is still provocatively parodising the mainstream culture, subverting its hegemonic value with its cultic/B-rated traits. And now in Seoul!



             As stated, The Rocky Horror Show can be analysed as a defiance of the B-rated culture to hegemonic and normative A-rated culture as RnD Works advertises this season of The Rocky Horror Show: “ The Best B-Rated Cult Horror Show.” The notion of “B-rated” culture finds its origin from “B movies” that “began to proliferate in the mid-1930s” (“Cult Films”), from which Richard O’Brien, the playwright of The Rocky Horror Show got his inspiration. “B-rated” art objects are often considered just as its name of genre: the secondary, poor in quality and sometimes even “trash.” However, it is also true that from its budgetary limitations, “B movies” have made its own aesthetic value. Then, according to “Cult Films,” “the trash aesthetic” (“Cult Films”) was later adapted by pop culture artists like Andy Warhole. Considering pop culture artists named in the article are accepted as “approved” artists by the mainstream society, it can be read that pop culture artists have somewhat subverted the appreciation of “B-rated” aesthetics with its own traits, the trash aesthetics. By actively making use of its B-rated traits and by also paying homages through patch-works of B-rated works (e.g.) The number, “Science Fiction/Double Feature”), The Rocky Horror Show makes comments to A-rated hegemonic culture. For instance, Frank N. Furter, who lives in “Frankenstein” castle, makes a man (Rocky Horror) in “seven days.” The process of making Rocky Horror reminds the audience of an American pre-Code horror monster film, paying the homage to 1930s American horror film. At the same time, it parodies Mary Shelley’s original version of Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus for the superficial reason of Frank N. Furter’s creation is distant from Frankenstein’s sublime cause. (While Frankenstein tries to pursue natural wonder against death and God’s order, Frank N. Furter creates Rocky Horror as his sex partner.) However, the creation of Rocky Horror is deeply connected to the characters’ desire and how it is revealed through the play. Like this, The Rocky Horror Show actively pays attention to B-rated arts and undermines the aura of A-rated culture (in this case, canon and dominant religion), imparting a new significance to neglected ones.



As the creative team and actors of The Rocky Horror Show accentuates in their promotion, it certainly seems to be captivate the minds of the audience in the theatre. However, I am afraid to say that it is hardly a glamorous return of Frank N. Furter as ze proclaims the presence, asking us after eight years of absence: “How d’ you do?” In musical Rocky Horror Show, which is translated by Jina Lee and Lufina Oh, it is notable that quite large parts of the lyrics are not translated as many of Lee’s translated works do (e.g. Jesus Christ Superstar, Hedwig and e.t.c.). The missing translations always leave much to be desired for it discards the primary duty of translation: help the local audience to understand the work of different language. From the basic, not every audience can understand English. Also, it does not fulfil another duty of translation, localisation. Through an adequate localisation, translation also helps the audience to understand the different cultural traits from the work. For instance, the lyrics “in the back row” from the intro number (which implicates the ambiance and the theme of Rocky Horror Show), is related to the American B movie culture from which O’Brien referred. However, in case of RnD Works’ Rocky Horror Show, “in the back row” is not translated at all. It is just sung in English as “in the back row,” which is not even an often used English phrase in Korea. Therefore, it is quite an obstacle to the audience who is not familiar to English, understanding the literal meaning and the significance itself of the phrase. Besides this, there are quite amounts of lyrics that are not translated at all, which definitely is not fulfilling the duties of translation.

             One can say that it may be deliberately not translated to give an alienating effects to the audience—giving a deliberated awkwardness or discomfort as Rocky Horror Show is meant to be. However, if that is the case, it is not explicable that Brad and Janet, who is the symbol of normativity itself, are giving those deliberate discomfort to the audience by saying English lines. (It should be Transylvanians!) Moreover, if it is an alienation as Rocky Horror Show (2001-directed by Jina Lee) did, which employed non-Korean actors as Transylvanians giving lines in English, a question arises—Why does English and “non-Koreanness” should be used as alienating device in Rocky Horror Show as a significance of the otherness? Is it related to the difference of languages? Why does Magenta speak in “foreign and broken” accent Korean to give a laugh and alienation effect to the audience? It is questionable.








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