Freddie Mercury would have made a good Frank-N-Furter
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN. ROCKY HORROR SHOW CREATOR RICHARD O’BRIEN TELLS MARION McMULLEN WHY HE’LL NEVER FORGET THE OPENING NIGHT OF THE CULT HIT
It is 45 years since The Rocky Horror Show first opened. What is your strongest memory of the first opening night? VINCENT PRICE sitting dead centre in the audience. Plus the relief that came with the first belly laugh from the house. There was also a thunderstorm the first night, very wild and electrical. It lit Vincent up a treat. Can you remember any of the first reviews? THE reviews were exceedingly generous and we couldn’t have written them any better had we been allowed to do so. The word of mouth was astonishingly wonderful. The Rocky Horror Show is more popular than ever. What do you think is the enduring appeal? THERE is a simple, childlike joy in the piece which is all very British and akin to a pantomime fairytale as seen through the eyes of a middle class American. Any favourite audience heckles over the years? I QUITE like those that proceed stage dialogue. One that springs to mind is ‘How did you finish your jigsaw puzzle?’ Before Frank N Furter has to say ‘All the pieces seemed to fit into place’. Has there ever been any pressure to write a sequel? ONLY from me at times of foolishness.
Have there been many celebrity fans doing the Time Warp over the years? I HAVE been in the presence of grandparents and grandchildren after a show. With celebrities they come to take a little walk on the wild side with us from time to time. There’s now a statue of you as your Rocky Horror character Riff Raff in New Zealand. What movies inspired the show and did you base the characters on anyone? I WAS a low-brow, eternal adolescent who adored populist themes, as a consequence ALL the characters are clichés of one sort or another. All easily recognisable, which adds further enjoyment to the audience. What is your strongest childhood memory? WANTING to be a girl. I lived in my head an awful lot. Did you do any odd jobs before turning to acting? I CUT hair, drove a van, cleaned houses, pumped gas, rode horses in movies and worked back stage at the Cambridge Theatre. Is it true one of your early roles was a stunt rider in Carry On Cowboy? YES, however, all I had to do in reality was stay on the horse and do as the director ordered. Was there ever a point when you came close to walking away from showbusiness in the early days? YES, it was soon after my first child was born and I thought that I should get a ‘real’ job as I now had an obligation far greater than my own dreams. You’ve done so much in your career, from presenting the Crystal Maze and playing the Child-catcher in
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to TV’s Phineas and Ferb. What is your own personal highlight? I LOVE writing lyrics and I get so much pleasure out of coming up with a great couplet that I sometimes want to go out and accost a stranger in the street in order to sing it to them. It’s almost as good as the feeling you get when you have assembled some Ikea flat-pack furniture. You recently met the new touring cast, which includes Blue singer and Hollyoaks actor Duncan James and Strictly Come Dancing professional Joanne Clifton. What were your first impressions? THE nicest thing about young performers today is that they are far more accomplished in ALL the disciplines than we were.
We were, at first, actors who could sing and dance a bit. They on the other hand are far better allrounders. And, as for Rocky himself, back in the day, we could never find even a muscle hunk, let alone one who could turn in a performance. There have been many great Frank-N-Furters over the years. Who do you think would have been good in the part? FREDDIE Mercury.
TO AWAKE with a cup of builders’ tea, a kiss from my wife Sabrina and the knowledge that, later on in the day, a nice bottle of full bodied, red wine awaits me. What would be your perfect day?
■ The Rocky Horror Show tour starts on December 13 and runs until November next year. Go to rockyhorror.co.uk for tickets and venues.
A scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, left, and the new stage show, right