Interview: New cast of The Rocky Horror Show reveal first impressions of hit musical
New stars of The Rocky Horror Show, Dom Joly, Joanne Clifton, and Ben Adams, discuss Brighton, sex, and their first impressions of the musical.
This article contains sexually explicit references which might offend or be unsuitable for some readers.
One of the world’s most prolific musicals will be returning to UK theatres this December after a two-year hiatus. Brighton Journal met with the leading cast members of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, Joanne Clifton, Ben Adams, and Dom Joly, who is playing ‘The Narrator’ at selected venues across the UK tour.
Rocky Horror Show tells the tale of Janet Weiss (Jo) and Brad Majors (Ben), a recently engaged couple who stumble across a castle home to cross-dressing, pansexual scientist, Dr Frank-N-Furter, after being caught up in a storm. Dr Frank-N-Furter reveals his human creation to the pair, an artificially-created, perfect specimen of a man known as Rocky Horror.
Comedy genius and TV star, Dom Joly, is best known for the success of his hidden camera show, Trigger Happy TV, which he produces and stars in. You will recognise Jo Clifton as an ex-professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, which she did before leaving to dedicate herself to musical theatre. Ben Adams continues to sing in his band, a1, in between musicals. After finishing a successful tour of Flashdance: The Musical together, Ben and Jo are back acting as the leading roles in Rocky Horror Show.
The cast is currently in rehearsals for the UK tour, which starts at Brighton’s Theatre Royal mid-December. Although they had only just begun read-throughs of the script, Dom, Jo, and Ben discuss their first confrontations with the hit musical, other screen and stage projects, and what they think of Brighton.
How are you finding the rehearsals in Brighton?
Dom: I filmed some of the new series of Trigger Happy here. The last two years, I’d say, fifty per cent of it has been down here. I actually feel really at home in Brighton.
Ben: We just did Flashdance together so we did it in the summer, we were here.
Jo: And I did Thoroughly Modern Millie here as well.
B: I like the pubs.
J: The Laines are cute.
D: Seagulls, as well. Of course, we’re all massive pier fans. It’s got one of the best piers here, sorry for your loss on one of them.
When were your first encounters with The Rocky Horror Show?
J: The audition. I was sent the scenes to do in the audition and one of them was the sex scene with the transvestite. I had to basically have sex, have an orgasm, on a chair by myself in front of a table of five people looking at me.
D: All marking your orgasm.
J: And the other person was just reading the lines really deadpan like that, and he was talking back and I’m going oh! Oooh!
D: She did it in the read through yesterday and it was like the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. She was full on, but everyone was a bit like…private moment.
B: I went to see Rocky Horror for the first time, I hadn’t seen the film or anything like that, in Wimbledon, some friends got me some tickets, and I had no idea about it. I just saw everybody dressing up and the songs were fantastic, and I thought ‘wow, what is this? I’d love to be a part of this’.
D: I’ve never seen the theatre, but in about 1990 I went to Gate Theatre somewhere in Notting Hill, someone just took me, it was about 11 o’clock at night, to see Rocky Horror Picture Show. I just didn’t know. There were people dressed up, and I just thought, ‘it’s Notting Hill’.
Have you felt any pressure acting in a musical with such a wide cultural reputation?
B: It is a really well-loved show and people are expecting certain things, but the reason why we’ve all been cast in our parts is to also make it our own.
D: It’s because we’re very cheap. For me, my dread is a script. Everything I do is, not improvised, I hate that word, but adlibbing, and so I like the Narrator as I’m going to have to deal with the audience, and that’s what’s exciting to me.
How does the intense musical theatre lifestyle compare to your other careers?
J: Even if it is eight shows a week, essentially what we’re doing is playing make-believe, so it’s an amazing job to have.
D: I’ve had about 13 years off, so I’m absolutely ready now.
B: I quite like to do lots of things at the same time. This year has been Flashdance, Eugenius!, a1, Rocky Horror, and we’ve been writing a new musical.
D: Do you think you’ll keep going up the A1?
B: Oh, the old a1 joke. I’ve never heard that one before.
What advice do you have for aspiring musical theatre actors out there?
B: There are so many thousands of people that want your job that you just have to try and be really dedicated, and make sure that you are better and more dedicated than all of them put together.
J: I train a lot as well, obviously because I didn’t go to a theatre school growing up I was just doing the ballroom, and so these four weeks I’ve had off I’ve been going to acting workshops and singing lessons
D: My advice is lie, cheat and blag, because everyone’s blagging.
Rocky Horror Show UK tour begins at Theatre Royal Brighton on 13th December until 5th January. Tickets for matinee and evening performances are available now from the ATG tickets website.