"People go crazy and I feel like Freddie Mercury or Mick Jagger or something!"Shaun Webb with permission for Varsity

Rocky Horror is back, and more outlandish than ever. Ahead of its run at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, Varsity got chatting with performer Stephen Webb, who trained at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, about all things Frank-N-Furter: his fishnet wearing, erotically-charged, mad scientist character.

S.S: You’re coming to the Cambridge Arts Theatre soon! What can you tell me about the show?

S.W: I’m really excited. Last time we came we had a younger audience, bearing in mind Rocky Horror has been going on for nearly fifty years. It’s wonderful to see a diverse group of people coming to watch you. Rocky has been around for ages but what’s amazing about it, is that the story remains so new and fresh. What Richard O’Brien did - it’s so amazing how current it is now. The themes in it, the way it talks about people being the way they want to be, it’s on the forefront now and it’s so great to see.

“Tim Curry is so iconic, and I give a little nod to him in my performance”

S.S: Rocky Horror has such a legacy behind it, how do you approach the role with that in mind?

S.W: It was completely out of my comfort zone first of all, I thought I’d never get the role. When I got offered it our director, Christopher Luscomb told me that he wanted me to do my own version. There’s no point copying someone else’s, Tim Curry [’s Frank-N-Furter] is so iconic, and I give a little nod to him in my performance, but if I copied him I would just be compared to him and we didn’t want that. So I had to do my own version. When I first put on the gear and everything, I kind of got an alter ego and I absolutely love it. It’s a part where you’re always discovering something. I’m always finding things with Frank. I approach him as a pansexual man, someone who finds things that he loves and that he thinks are beautiful: he’s created this beautiful creature who has got blond hair, blue eyes, and is muscly and a tan which embodies what he sees as beautiful.

Frank is not from earth he’s from another planet. We can only assume he’s created his costume for himself out if things he’s seen in magazines or movies, or things he came across and decide he loved. I approached it like that, because I wanted my own interpretation of him, and it seems to be doing the trick because they’ve asked me back to come do it again.

S.S: Will this be the first time you do the role in a while?

“I walk down the stairs and I rip off my clothing and you just see me in all my get up, my lingerie and everything”

S.W: I’ve been doing this tour for the past nine months now. During lockdown they phoned me up and said would you like to come back and do it again, and I said absolutely. Of all the shows I’ve done - and I’ve been in this industry for twenty years - this is by far one of my favourite parts. I absolutely love it. Bearing in mind, as well, that I don’t come on ’till twenty minutes in: people are waiting for Frank to come in and when I do I’m in a cloak, and they open the doors and the lights are all on me. And then I walk down the stairs and I rip off my clothing and you just see me in all my get up, my lingerie and everything. People go crazy and I feel like Freddie Mercury or Mick Jagger or something!

S.S:That is what the show really reminds me of - you know, glam rock stars like Freddy Mercury or David Bowie...

S.W: Exactly. And that’s how I’ve approached it with my makeup. Very Ziggy Stardust. When I first put it on I really didn’t think that I would be able to give it justice. And then I put all the gear on and it kind of changed me, I felt so powerful.

S.S: What do you think is the most exciting moment in the show?

S.W: For me personally, it’s always when I first come out with ‘Sweet Transvestite’. But I have two other big favourite moments in the show. One is when he [Frank-N-Furter] has drugged the other characters and he gets them to perform the floor show. They’re all dressed up in corsets and tights and they perform a glam rock number. The other moment for me is singing ‘I’m Going Home’. I approach it as though he’s taken his mask off. That’s when you see there’s actually someone quite vulnerable underneath the alter ego. It’s a nice touching moment.


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S.S: If there was one thing you wanted people to take away from this show would you want it to be?

S.W: To embrace yourself. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you can and can’t do or be. 

Rocky Horror Show is playing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre Mon 20 - Sat 25 June 2022