BWW Interviews: ROCKY HORROR's Oliver Thornton and Roxanne Pallett
Roxanne Pallett's on her way back to her dressing room after a mad dash for coffee before the shops shut. "Me and Ben [Ben Forster] always make sure we find our coffee shop when we get to a new town," she says. "Ben's like my husband now.
"I don't know what I'm going to do when he leaves to go and play Jesus again. If you see a woman crawling onto the stage at the O2 Arena and pulling Jesus down from the cross, that'll be me..."
So you're in your second town of a year-long UK tour of the 40th anniversary production of The Rocky Horror Show...
Yes, we're in Torquay after opening in Brighton before Christmas. They really embraced it, they kept us on our toes. The audience are as big a part of it as we are; you need a vibrant audience, you need them to get on their feet. Now we're on the road, and we're loving it, it's absolutely hysterical. You realise just why we're celebrating this show's 40th anniversary.
Absolutely - it doesn't feel like a show that's forty years old.
It doesn't I turned 30 on Boxing Day, so I feel like I'm hitting a milestone with it. My mum came to see it and she dressed up and everything, and she said, "Rox, I'm not a Rocky Horror virgin any more!" Ben's mum came along too, they both really embraced the pageantry. I feel like Rocky Horror's like a drive-in movie, it's so American, it's like you're taking your audience through a storyboard.
And you always have to be on your toes as well as staying in character.
You just can't relax. There are all sorts of shoutouts - I've been called a slut, a hoebag...Ben and I are black and blue from squeezing each other's arms if someone says something funny. There's nothing worse than cutting someone short - I like to allow a pause for them to do their shoutouts when I know they're coming. It's almost like a duologue. Fans are very protective over the material as well, though; if someone shouts something in the wrong place they'll be told. They're respectful of the characters, and we meet them afterwards and it's great to get their feedback. I never read reviews, but I love talking to fans and the audience.
Were you a fan of the show before?
I'd never seen the show or the movie. I knew the Timewarp, along with other parThty songs, that'd always get people up on the dance floor, and I knew the show and movie existed but hadn't seen either of them. I really don't know where I was, because this has had the biggest reaction out of anything I've done, when I tell people I'm playing Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, from the hairdresser to the man in the baker's to my mum's friend.
After I got the part I made the conscious decision not to see the film. Actors are like sponges, it's easy to soak up someone else's portrayal and interpret it, but I wanted to give my own interpretation. That's why I wanted to be blonde for this as well - usually I'm dark and feisty, but being blonde helps me look like that all-American girl, and it helps the audience.
Meanwhile, Oliver Thornton is in his dressing room, bemoaning the lack of mobile phone signal...but he has no complaints about anything else. "It's lovely, we're all getting on so well, and that makes such a difference - it makes for a better show," he says.
That's just as well - you're all together for a long time...
[laughs] That's true, we're together for a year!
How have you found yourself getting on with playing such an iconic role as Frank N Furter?
The biggest thing has been the expectation that comes with the role. I have been nervous, I have felt the pressure - I'm stepping into the shoes of so many great Franks, and that's scary. The great thing is that the director is wonderful, and he stopped it being scary.
How did you approach reinventing the role?
I knew the film well, I watched it a lot as a teenager. After I got the role, I decided not to look at it - I was the same when I got the part in Priscilla. The important thing is to look at the script and the music and the lyrics, and that's what we did; I approached it like any other role. Richard O'Brien was around too, he came into the rehearsal room, so had there been anything off the mark, he would have said. So that was a safe environment.
It was only really when we went in front of the audience that I felt the pressure again!
What was that like?
I had an idea of what it would be like from Priscilla, which was an audience-based show. It takes time to get used to it, but you quickly adapt to it, and then it feels strange when you have a quieter show. The important thing to remember is that fans do their shout-outs because they love the show, it's not from malice - and they want you to love the show as well, and then it becomes really good fun. Sometimes you get someone who's had one wine too many, and they shout something daft, and then we can answer them back - or at least Philip Franks, who's the narrator, can.
As Frank, you have the leeway to use a sharply-raised eyebrow, though, in the right circumstances...
Chris [Christopher Luscombe, the director] wanted me to not actually answer back - so yes, it's a look more than words. You want to come back with something sharp and witty, but it does halt the intention of the scene. There's maybe a little less interaction than in previous productions; we wanted to get back to the story and give Rocky Horror an integrity again. if it becomes a panto, it does the show a disservice. The fans have responded to that. I think we've achieved something fresh and new - 40 years on. I'm really proud.