The Chester blog

Rocky Horror preview with Philip Franks

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 The Rocky Horror Show comes to Storyhouse from Monday 16 September to Saturday 21 September 2019 for eight performances. The Narrator will be played  by actor Philip Franks, fondly known for his TV roles in The Darling Buds Of May, Heartbeat, Absolutely Fabulous, Foyle’s War, and Midsomer Murders.

ROCKY

What can you tell us about this version of the show ?

“It was created for the 40th anniversary of the show and its a really tight, well choreographed extremely slick show. Because its so professionally done it allows all the mayhem from the audience to happen around it. I think some other productions have been a bit sprawling, like a free for all party. I think if you’ve never seen the show you’ll have a jolly good evening and if you have, you’ll get what you want and  you can shout out to your hearts content.”

How long have you been playing the role for ?

“I’ve probably done about 400, over a couple of years. I’ve done 3 stints of it. This time we have been sharing the Narrator between myself , Dom Joly and Steve Punt. From now until November its just me.”

Rocky Horror is noted for its dedicated fanbase. What’s been the response from fans?

“They are wonderful. They come again and again. The show is very much theirs. It makes my role a very peculiar one, because ordinarily you do the same show night after night. This one, because the Narrator has a certain amount of interaction with the audience, its up to me for ring the changes  in the way I answer back. It certainly keeps it fresh! ”

Were you a fan of the original musical?

“I certainly was. I saw it when I was at school It started very small at the Royal Court theatre and then it transferred to a shabby old cinema on the Kings Road. I saw Tim Curry and I had the original soundtrack LP, I played that to death. It became a sleeper hit for American kids on the drive in movie circuit. Although it was slung together in a few weeks, it was a piece of enormous cultural importance and it tied into a lot of things that were happening at the time.  That’s really what’s kept it alive… Its a kind of adult pantomime, you have the same freedom in the audience that a child would have at a pantomime, though obviously the subject matter is adult. But it has the same kind of innocence, this might sound like an odd thing to say about people parading round in fishnets.. but its a timeless story of good and evil. It taps into everyone’s love of old horror stories , with the innocent kids, will they triumph over good and evil? Its got an extremely good sing along score. It allows you a couple of hours of complete irresponsibility !”

I remember you in Darling Buds of May, what are your memories of that show?

“I remember an extremely enjoyable job. It took 3 years to make 3 series. The first one was a wonderful fun time, with slightly diminishing returns after that. I think the first series hit a nerve, it was something unusual on television. Television had been very dark and very grim, there were series around like Cracker, which were brilliant in their way. What Darling Buds did was tap into a Sunday evening family market. It was a nostalgic show which the whole family could watch without feeling embarrassed. There have been countless imitators but this was the first. At the time when we were making it, we didn’t think it would make much of a splash because nothing much happens! There aren’t car crashes, there aren’t murders, its just gentle. It turned out to be what people wanted.

You’ve also done a lot of stage and directing work. What do you prefer?

“Theres no competition. You don’t have to choose between the two. The two make enormously different demands on you. Television pays better, on stage you have more responsibility. Directing I started quite late, because  as an actor I wanted to take more responsibility … Its not that you tell everybody what to do, its that your responsible for what happens in the room, you make a lot of choices. It turns out that the things I didn’t know anything about, like working with lighting designers, choreographers… I really enjoy. I’ve had a ball directing but I wouldn’t want to give up acting, I still like doing both

You’ve recently been directing in York?

“That’s right, the pop up Rose theatre. I had a couple of months off Rocky to go and do that, directing The Tempest. It was a wonderful experience. I had a cast of 19 which is really big for the theatre. We performed in the open air which has its own problems.

When you visit different cities, do you get a chance to have a look around or is it all a blur ?

“Yes, you do. Its a brilliant way of seeing the country. With Rocky, at the end of the week is the big workload, we do 2 shows back to back on Friday and Saturday. It does mean that in the week, we get to explore new cities. I don’t know Chester, I’ve never played there and I’m really looking forward to it! ”

What else would you say to people thinking about coming to see the show?

“Don’t think its a cult! Some people think “oh I’ve got to dress up! A lot of people do, but its a really enjoyable evening, its the best fun you can have with most of your clothes on!”

Thanks to Philip for his time.

Tickets: https://www.storyhouse.com/event/rocky-horror-show

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