Richard O’Brien and his Kingdom of Bling

Richard O'Brien performing on stage. Photo: Elaine Fisher/SunLive.

“It’s astounding, time is fleeting, madness takes its toll…”

It is 50 years since The Rocky Horror Show premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London. A cult hit on stage and screen, it has proven ridiculously popular with every generation since. 

Indeed, it has been claimed Rocky Horror is the longest running contemporary stage musical in the world, seen by 30 million people in more than 30 countries. 

Not bad for a boy from Tauranga. This month its creator Richard O’Brien, now aged a right royal 81, celebrates that 50th by premiering a brand new play.

Kingdom of Bling is a satirical fairy-tale starring O’Brien as narrator. It features giants, a menacing fox, trolls, and the king of the land - the obnoxious ‘He’.

The new play is set in "a time of confusion, when so many madly strange beliefs collided. A time when kindness had been demonised, while crafty blindness wined and dined in a world it had divided."

The work reflects O'Brien's concern about the "poisoned chalice that far-right-fundamentalism is loudly offering up".

"The world cannot afford to have Donald Trump regain the White House. It's too dangerous, Western democracy will come to an end and we'll usher in a dystopian future," he says.

However, O’Brien’s principal aim for the play is raising money for a good cause - Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland - while having “a lot of fun doing it.”  He has even donated the rights for Kingdom of Bling to the hospital.

He hopes Kingdom of Bling will also get turned into an animated movie.

When it opens in Tauranga this month, the new play will include performances by students from Tauranga Primary and Tauranga Boys College -  the schools O'Brien attended and where he first trod the boards.

O'Brien is pleased his old school has finally embraced him.

"They've put their arm around me.

"It's a generation late, but the generations before were a bit loathe to embrace me, because I'd been a little poofy chap, who they caned regularly.

"Then when Rocky came... it does come with its baggage for people in the world of education. But we've got past that, because everybody realises it's a kind of satire itself."

Speaking to Culture 101’s Mark Amery about his favourite cultural memories growing up in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato, O'Brien recalls the advent of rock 'n roll and the waves of musical creativity that rippled out around the world.

Back in the the late 1950s and early 1960s, O'Brien sang in a band, The Four Fours, while his brother, Rob Smith, played saxophone.

Rock 'n roll was among the inspirations that prompted O'Brien to write The Rocky Horror Show in the early 1970s.

Looking back, he says the longevity of Rocky Horror has been a surprise.

"It was written in a boy's bedroom. It was written with a crayon," he laughs.

In reality, O'Brien penned the musical while in his early thirties - and he's still asked to perform the Time Warp again 50 years on.

Kingdom of Bling premieres at Baycourt Theatre in Tauranga on 24 and 25 November.


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