So, how does it feel to be Frank ‘N’Furter again?
It’s like visiting an old friend, it’s really good. He’s so much fun – every actor’s dream. You get to play all the different colours of the spectrum, he’s charming, sexy, fun, crazy, pathological, it never gets boring.
What’s the appeal?
They called me towards the end of 2009 and said they wanted to take the tour out again, and were told fans were requesting bringing David Bedella back. That’s a very flattering thing, that I was actually requested to come back. I thought it’s worth doing – if fans loved what I did, it could only be a good thing to return to that.
It’s an iconic theatre role that demands your all. How do you keep it interesting?
People ask me all the time how I generate the enthusiasm to go out and do this job, but it’s literally automatic. I’ve had 30 years in this business – which is shocking and frightening – and it’s just part of the job. You learn to hear that music and everything kicks into gear. I’m just trying to give it as much as I can. You never reach a point where you think ‘I can’t do it any better that that’. You’re always trying to perfect it, reach the ultimate show, and I don’t think anyone ever does.
How did you get started with Rocky Horror?
It was a difficult task getting the job in the beginning. I’m not what you’d call a household name, I’d done Jerry Springer and Holby City so I had a bit of a profile, but I was not someone everybody knew. With the industry as celeb-driven as it is, you have to have a name from TV or film to be playing leads in the West End.
So what happened?
One thing in my favour was that [Rocky Horror stage director] Chris Luscombe came to see me in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was a similar kind of show, where my character goes back and forth between playing drag and a real man. He saw how huge I had to give that performance and sent me a message telling me I was his Frank and he would fight to the death for me!
What do you bring to Frank?
I’ve always played the character in a very unfeminine way. Frank is very masculine, a blokey guy who happens to love putting on women’s lingerie and high heels. He’s quite sexy to men and women, and I think the reason for that is his masculinity.
Frank has to be very confident and sexy. Is that easy for you?
There’s times I definitely see myself peeking out from behind the mask and it makes me laugh. I try to make it all be Frank, but of course some part of you has to believe you’re sexy doing a role like this.
Rocky Horror gives Frank the chance to come off-script and talk to the audience, too.
It’s exciting, I really love that a bit of ad-libbing – but you can really lose an audience so quickly if you say the wrong thing, so you’ve got to be really careful how you interact. You’ve got to be witty and gracious. Sometimes you might have to tell them they have stepped over the line but we’re all here together and having fun. It really makes your heart pound, but once you see things get out of hand you’ve got to nip it in the bud.
Last time I saw the show it just flew by. Year on year the fat has really been trimmed from the production.
Because it is full of lines that encourage the audience to scream things back, the goal was to pare that down to actually see the theatre piece, so it’s not so much of a shouting match. The pace and speed of the thing adds to the excitement.
So what is the process of becoming Frank?
I do my own make up but putting Frank together is a five person job, which must seem ridiculous.
It better had be ridiculous. That would be only right.
A half hour before the show, I’m painting my face, someone else is pinning my hair and putting on the wig, my dresser is putting the clothes on all of us… usually I have a bit of dance music playing to get hyper. There’s a really fun, party atmosphere backstage before we go on. I need to feel jubilant.
And what’s your favourite part of being Dr Frank N. Furter?
My favourite parts of the show are book ended for me. It’s hard to top an opening number like Sweet Transvestite, especially the way it’s set up in the show, with all the enthusiasm building, all eyes on you, and the band kicking rock ‘n’ roll. You can’t get better than that, really. But by the same token, the last song he does, I’m Going Home, is sung with great passion, so it’s the two extremes.
Do you ever make any other appearances in character?
My Frank is only on stage. It’s a very specific thing, and it needs to stay magical. If you saw him hanging around with a Starbucks in hand, that mystery and glamour would disappear.
The Rocky Horror Show is on at the Liverpool Empire from October 4 – 9, also starring Christopher Biggins as the narrator. For more information see the theatre website.