Theatre & Dance
Interview: David Bedella
By Martin Barber
Award-winning actor David Bedella stared as Frank 'N' Furter in the The Rocky Horror Show UK tour '07. Watch our webTV interview with the corset-clad star as he talks about a life in heels, an Olivier award and walking the corridors of Holby City.
The Rocky Horror Show is a cult phenomenon, much loved around the world and regarded with fondness as the biggest, baddest, rock 'n roll musical ever.
More than 30 years after the show first took to the stage, the 2007 tour returned to creator Richard O'Brien's original script and starred award-winning West End and Broadway star David Bedella as the scandalous Frank 'N' Furter.
In 2004 David won an Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance as Satan/Warm Up Man in the controversial Jerry Springer - The Opera.
He's also well-known in the UK for his role of plastic surgeon Carlos Fashola in the BBC's Holby City.
Martin Barber asked David Bedella how he felt about being given the chance to play Frank 'N' Furtur.
DB: I've been told by non-musical actors they consider Frank to be the Hamlet of the musical theatre world.
As a straight actor [not working in musical theatre] you always want to get your hands on Hamlet to say 'I'm one of the greats. I'm good enough to do this role' and in a way it does appear so with Frank 'N' Furter.
He has such a huge range of emotions. You get to be everything from delightfully comic and camp to profound and heart-wrenching.
You're singing rock 'n roll at the top of your lungs – everything about it is a challenge, it's huge.
Frank 'N' Furter, a sweet transvestite
MB: How have your stamped your own mark onto the role?
DB: The most important thing was to push Tim Curry from my head, which was the hardest thing to do when somebody creates a role which has taken the world the way his has.
We decided to make him [Frank] American, which is a great choice by our director Christopher Luscombe, as almost immediately what started to come then was me – my personality, my quirks and Tim Curry was sort of left behind.
Yet, at the same time, you always want to tip your hat to the person who made it so brilliant in the first place. So I think it's a really nice mix.
MB: You've also starred in Jerry Springer - The Opera, another show with a cult following. What takes a show from being a piece of musical theatre and elevates it to iconic status?
DB: Intelligence. There is tremendous intelligence with Jerry Springer. The score is brilliantly written and matches up to just about any classical piece, in addition to the Broadway and rock genres.
The final layer that goes on it is to have performers willing to take it to the extreme – which I think is one of things I do best. I take material and see just how far it can go, how far can we push the limits.
MB: Why do you think Rocky Horror has stood the test of time and still manages to play packed houses when it tours?
DB: I think one of the big things is the amount of release that it allows the audience.
People who ordinarily have what they may think are mundane jobs are given the opportunity to come into the theatre and really let their hair down.
You're encouraged to be as outrageous and as flamboyant as possible. All barriers are lifted and people have such a brilliant time.
MB: You're no stranger to playing a doctor, though Doctor Frank 'N' Furter is quite a way from Doctor Fashola in Holby City.
DB: I learned a lot on Holby. I can do a brilliant suture! I suppose I have a real fondness now for the medical profession.
David Bedella as Doctor Carlos Fashola
I had a great time on Holby.
The nicest thing is there are so many Holby viewers in the UK, so when I come to all of the different towns [on the tour] I'm stopped every three feet on the street with 'Oh, you're Doctor Carlos' – and that's great fun. The recognition is really nice.
MB: How do you cope with the audience taking almost the part of an additional cast member in Rocky Horror?
DB: It's a bit like a roller coaster.
It's an integral part of the show, it’s what makes it great fun – but it can also be horrific, particularly when people drink too much.
You have to put them in their place from time to time, but in truth, the majority love the participation. When you get it going it can be like a tennis match, it can really soar and that's a great experience when it happens.
MB: For the Rocky virgins, do you really have to dress up to enjoy this show?
DB: People discover when they are dressed as some character they can let go in a way that they don't normally experience at a theatrical event.
There aren't that many out there that encourage you to do it – so why not.
But if it's not your style and you just want to come and see the piece - this is one of the few productions where you can come as you are, see this theatrical piece and appreciate it.
The Rocky Horror Show was at the Norwich Theatre Royal in March, 2007.The national tour of this production ended in July 2007.
last updated: 07/07/2008 at 09:29