When ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ was first performed in 1973 at the Theatre Upstairs in London, hardly anyone had heard of its author, Richard O’Brien (born Richard Timothy Smith in Cheltenham). Today he is still a cult hero of considerable talent and imagination and ambiguous sexuality, as he recently commented to Radio 4. On the percentage scale, he said, “. . .I believe myself to be about 70% male, 30% female.”
Be that as it may, O’Brien has just turned 71 and is about to get married, this time to 35-year-old Sabrina Graf. He’s known her for over 10 years and says he ‘can’t breathe properly’ without her, so they are going back to New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty where they plan to be hitched sometime this month. The writer/actor/presenter and all around versatile O’Brien has been married twice before; third time might be the charm.
Nowadays more fans know him as the presenter in The Crystal Maze, one of the most popular British game shows of all time. That show been retired since 1995, but the Rocky Horror Show may never be completely retired. A 40th anniversary production is currently set to tour the UK during 2013, reviving (but not re-inventing) the wild and crazy shenanigans of the transsexual Frank-N-Furter and his cohort Riff Raff (played by O’Brien himself in the original version.)
This production, directed by Christopher Luscombe and billed by its promoters as ‘the boldest bash of them all’ is no longer particularly shocking – most people living in London or Los Angeles (and probably most of the rest of the world) have seen much more bizarre and outlandish behaviour on their way home from work. Still, somehow O’Brien’s over-the-top and out-of-bounds Rocky Horror Show has maintained its well-deserved status as a cult classic.
O’Brien says he is delighted to see his show in such good hands, and that it has survived this long with such energy. When he wrote the show he had just returned to London from New Zealand, but much of the inspiration for his off beat work came from the sort of theatre that blossomed in New York in the 60’s. That was ‘liberated’, out of the mainstream and into the original punk style that recognized very few bounds and did its best to cross the ones they did recognise.
It may seem odd to some that the ever-flamboyant O’Brien chooses to settle in New Zealand, but it isn’t really. His family moved there when he was 10, and the remaining members are still there. He has observed that England suffers from class-consciousness but in New Zealand he can sit with anyone he likes.