This year, we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the iconic smash-hit musical The Rocky Horror Show, as it continues to play a newly extended tour through 2023 to sell-out crowds. To our absolute delight, the musical is also showing at the Leeds Grand Theatre between June 27 and July 1. And if you’re unable to make those dates, the show is also playing the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford between September 25 and 30.
The show has been seen by over 30 million people worldwide in more than 30 countries as well as translated into 20 languages as it continues to not only entertain spectators, but also provide audiences with a safe space on its sell-out international tour. With a whole host of celebrations to be announced throughout the year, the cast are full speed ahead and ready to honour this monumental moment.
What is more, Secret Edinburgh got the chance to speak with Kristian Lavercombe, who is playing Riff Raff on the tour. To say that Kristian is an experienced actor would an understatement: the actor has played Riff Raff over 2,000 times, as well as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, Puck in Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and more.
So, we wanted to know the ins and outs of being on tour, what it’s like to have played Riff Raff so many times and just a bit more about Kristian himself.
Tell us the ‘why’ behind choosing acting as part of your life purpose?
‘I always knew I was going to have some sort of creative outlet as a career, and I initially thought I was going to be a painter.’, said Kristian, as he smiled. ‘And then suddenly, I was also getting involved in productions at school and productions outside of school. And eventually, those doors kept on opening for me and I just kept on going through them where I was working as a professional actor.’
The actor also expressed that the ambition to become a full time painter have never really left and he still continues to do art on the side. Kristian also draws inspiration from his 15 years of experience in Rocky Horror to create digital artwork as he tours internationally. ‘I think life is about living as many lives as possible in one.’, he expresses.
Tell us about the most humbling moment in your career so far?
“Anyone who follows Rocky Horror will know that the fans are unlike any other fans of any other show I’ve ever encountered. For them, Rocky Horror is almost like a life choice.”, says Kristian, “They make Rocky Horror a very special thing for me: the love that they have for the show spreads out to the performance and [to those] who are involved with it.”
“Seeing what the show means to them and being a little part of that is probably the most humbling thing for me, really.”, he finishes off. So, we all know how much Rocky Horror means to so many individuals who have been followers for a long time, and it is evident that the love and inclusivity spreads out onto the stage, making it a truly special experience for everyone involved.
Are there any specific or unusual techniques you use to get into character? How do you keep it exciting for yourself?
When asked about how getting into character, Kristian got understandably sentimental: “Riff Raff is an old friend to me now, I can’t imagine my life without him being a part of it. […] I would like to think that even when I finish the show he will be a part of my life in some way.”
“No one tell you how to play a role so many times, you know, it’s a journey: you learn a lot of different things along the way.”, he reminisces, “I’m a visual person, so putting on the whole make-up and the costume is a process for me to go through. In the end, I like to look in the mirror and not see myself – I like to see the character.”
Normally, people don’t just sit and stare at themselves in the mirror for hours, and with the amount of make-up and prep that goes into getting into full costume, it makes sense how that would be a process in itself for a character such as Riff Raff.
Tell us about the rehearsal process and what a usual day on tour looks like?
“I have just figured out the other day, because I must of had about 12 different casts over the years, […] that I have spent an entire year of my life just rehearsing the show without an audience. […] You constantly need to re-rehearse with new people and there’s changes in the choreography or direction, it’s constantly evolving.”, explains the Riff Raff actor.
“We’re in a different city every single week, so I don’t live anywhere anymore as there would be no point. I’m a true actor in that sense, living on the road. […] We never get a single day off where we don’t do anything.” Tour life is surely not for the faint hearted, as the actor’s entire lives revolve around Rocky Horror: the dedication is admirable, and the continuous selling out of the musical speaks for itself.
Tell us what is the message behind Rocky Horror when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and societal views towards queer people?
“Rocky Horror was probably one of the first shows out there that seemed to have a LGBTQ message in it and the lead in the show didn’t fit into societal norms. It was way ahead of its time, and it still has the same message of be whoever you want to be and don’t care what anyone else thinks.”, expresses Kristian.
“The main [message] for Rocky Horror audiences is there’s a safe space for people to go and be themselves. It’s not always the most PC of audiences, certainly they are welcome towards absolutely everyone.”
So, while the message of safety and inclusivity remains the same throughout the 50 years the show has been playing, it still means as much to today’s young audiences as it did when it first came out in 1973.