Dom Joly

I’m just a sweet trans­ves­tite

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - con­tact @domjoly

It had to hap­pen some­day. Af­ter 20 years in show busi­ness, I’ve fi­nally done it. I’ve dipped my toe into the ‘fab­u­lous’ world of mu­si­cal theatre. I am star­ring in The Rocky Hor­ror Show, the global mu­si­cal phe­nom­e­non that is cur­rently on yet an­other sell-out world tour. For a man who nor­mally makes his liv­ing writ­ing travel books and an­noy­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic while dressed as a squir­rel, this is quite the de­par­ture for me.

I re­mem­ber the first time I saw Rocky Hor­ror. It was the film as op­posed to the stage show. It was on late at night at the Gate Cin­ema in Not­ting Hill Gate in Lon­don. Some­one had in­vited me along and I might have been a touch tipsy with no idea what to ex­pect. It was in­sane. Peo­ple in the au­di­ence were dressed up, throw­ing rice, open­ing um­brel­las and hurl­ing per­fectly-timed comic barbs at the cross-dress­ing, sci-fi mad­ness on screen. I’d never seen any­thing like it.

The tra­di­tion of the au­di­ence in­volve­ment in the show comes from when the mu­si­cal was made into the film. It was not bril­liantly edited to put it mildly. The fi­nal cut left long clunky gaps be­tween the di­a­logue and this al­lowed au­di­ence mem­bers to start throw­ing in their own funny com­ments. Th­ese have al­most be­come a script in them­selves and the prac­tise has now trans­ferred to the live show. I have es­sen­tially signed up for a nightly wall of well-honed abuse from an au­di­ence that know the show far bet­ter than any­body on stage.

If I’m hon­est, be­fore this ex­pe­ri­ence, I was never much of a fan of mu­si­cals. My per­sonal in­volve­ment was a small part in Pi­rates of Pen­zance and a slightly big­ger one In Oh What a Lovely War, but this was back at school when it was ba­si­cally a good way to meet girls. The only pro­fes­sional mu­si­cal that I re­mem­ber go­ing to and en­joy­ing was Evita. I think that my main prob­lem with the genre is that I’ll be en­joy­ing a good story when some­body sud­denly starts singing for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son and no­body ever ref­er­ences it. I long for some­one on stage to look puz­zled and say “sorry, what are you do­ing?” It never hap­pens of course. Mu­si­cals are fan­tasy and es­capism and peo­ple love them. Mine is a very mi­nor­ity po­si­tion.

So, when I was asked to con­sider be­ing in the show, I did hes­i­tate. Was this re­ally for me? In the end, like most of my ca­reer de­ci­sions I just closed my eyes and jumped in. And boy, am I happy I did.

Firstly, I didn’t re­alise just how funny the show is. It’s gen­uinely hys­ter­i­cal. On top of that I re­alised that, de­spite hav­ing only seen the film once, I knew all the songs and they rock.

My first day was with the cos­tume peo­ple who were anx­ious to fit me with a com­fort­able pair of high heels. Pho­tos of this fit­ting caused quite some con­ster­na­tion with my chil­dren whom, I think as­sumed that dad was go­ing through a ‘change’.

It’s so nice to be part of a group. A lot of my work, both writ­ing and TV is quite soli­tary. I’m per­fectly happy with that as I rather like my own com­pany but it is great to be part of a big­ger whole and to be able to share the per­form­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers (Oh God… it’s hap­pen­ing… I’m be­com­ing a luvvie).

The thing I love the most about it, how­ever, is that The Rocky Hor­ror Show is all about the out­sider, the mis­fit, with a mes­sage that says it’s OK to be weird. I think that out­side the Lon­don bub­ble, in more con­ser­va­tive places where it might be more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to find their ‘tribe’ this is a mas­sively im­por­tant thing. I speak, of course, as an ex Goth and some­body that could have very much done with this kind of thing grow­ing up. Fel­low cast mem­bers tell me amaz­ing sto­ries about emails or let­ters they get from peo­ple who have seen the show and the ef­fect that it had on them. In a sense the Rocky Hor­ror Show is a safe space within which peo­ple can chan­nel their in­ner freak and that is some­thing worth shout­ing/singing about.

The Rocky Hor­ror Show tour starts in Brighton (un­til Jan­uary 5), be­fore mov­ing on to 26 other venues, in­clud­ing Ox­ford (March 25-30) and Bris­tol (June 17-22). Visit rocky­hor­ror.co.uk for full tour de­tails.

Dom em­brac­ing his ‘in­ner freak’, while ac­tu­ally look­ing rather dap­per, dur­ing his fit­ting for The Rocky Hor­ror Show

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