Shock Treatment is like The Rocky Horror Show’s underachieving younger sibling. Sure, it has its own charm and can be quite entertaining but it will never leave its older sibling’s shadow.
Richard O’Brein’s ‘equal sequel’ was originally filmed in 1981 and poked fun at society’s obsession with celebrities and fame. Although the film was initially deemed a flop, it has now made its way onto the London stage for the first time, playing at the King’s Head Theatre. The infamous cult film The Rocky Horror Show also made its debut Upstairs at the Royal Court so, it only seems right for the sequel to have a similar opening.
The audience are reunited with Brad (Ben Kerr) and Janet Majors (Julie Atherton) who have now hit a rough patch in their marriage (because their engagement started so smoothly…). Denton, their hometown, has been taken over by Farley Flavours (Mark Little), a TV executive who will do anything for high ratings. The unhappy couple are chosen to appear on a television show, Marriage Maze, hosted by their friends Betty (Rosanna Hyland) and Ralph Hapschatt (Mateo Oxley) (remember them?). When TV doctors Cosmo (Adam Rhys-Davies) and Nation McKinley (Nic Lamont) are called onto the scene, everything turns to the bizarre. Brad and Janet are both trapped in this white teeth and fake smiles world, how will they escape this time?
It seems that Brad and Janet did not learn anything after their ordeal with the transsexual aliens. It is a bit disappointing to see they are both just as naïve as before. There is an eerie vibe and it is impossible to guess what might happen next. Of course, audience participation is highly encouraged in this show – but only on cue. In fact, from the moment you enter the auditorium you are in the Farley Flavours studio.
The cast may be small but it is particularly strong. In fact, the cast are the best part of this performance and it is their fantastic acting that makes the show so entertaining. The dynamics between the characters are unsurprisingly based on high sexual tension.
It may be just the technical side but it is hard to hear the words when they are singing and it takes a lot of concentration to understand the lyrics, meaning they don’t carry the same effect as they should. Although the music has a hint of O’Brien behind it, the songs are less memorable.
Shock Treatment weirdly predicts the rise of reality television. It is odd how Shock Treatment can make so little sense and so much sense at the same time. Overall, it’s just a really fun night out.
Shock Treatment is playing at King’s Head Theatre until 6 June. For tickets and more information, see the King’s Head Theatre website. Photo by Peter Langdown.