Gareth K Vile looks at Reeling and Writhing's If I was a mouse, I'd hide in your hood and the current tour of The Rocky Horror Show.
With a similar structure to Ibsen’s The Doll’s House, and a running time of under an hour, If I was a mouse, I’d hide in your hood, traverses the emotional hinterland between alienation and community, finally offering a redemptive message and a humorous encore. The first act focuses heavily on the daily routine of the housebound hero – his letters set to one side, his rituals of waking, eating, painting and sleep performed with a neurotic attention to detail – while the second act forces him to engage with the interference of the outside world, charmingly represented by a mischievous mouse.
Reeling and Writhing draw together influences from clowning as well as existential doubt: this thoroughly contemporary parable is a gentle reminder of the importance of friendship. At first, the repetitive movements of the unnamed hero appear awkward, obsessive and confused: it is only after the intrusion of the mouse that the poignant loneliness beneath this insular lifestyle is revealed. A rich musical score, an attention to physical detail and a very limited use of spoken script combine to make Mouse a finely honed meditation on modern alienation.
While Mouse is nuanced and intimate, The Rocky Horror Show has a wider agenda. A parable about the sudden shift from 1950s’ probity to the polymorphous sexuality of the Love Generation, it takes science fiction and stereotyped signifiers of eroticism to pose questions both about the huge social transitions of the post-war era and the dangerous allure of the outsider.
David Bedella captures the alien menace of Frank N Furter, by turns seductive and murderous: the script’s roughshod attitude to structure, along with its thematic preoccupations, makes it a musical theatre parallel to the novels of William Burroughs. Disorientating, outrageous, and inviting a more involved response from its audience, it mirrors Burroughs’ later writings, when the urge to shock gave way to a more compassionate teaching.
Ultimately, the sensual utopia promised by the transvestite Transylvanian is defeated by the resurgent forces of order. The traditional scientist establishes his authority, while Frank N Furter’s own companions betray him for a perceived higher good – although this is, in itself, mere self-interest. Created in the early 1970s, when author Richard O’Brian was observing the hangover of the summer of love, Rocky retains its relevance in another era when the party seems to have stopped, and austerity is the new decadence.