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Kristian Lavercombe - Rocky Horror Show Interview

Richard O'Brien's cult classic musical Rocky Horror Show is about to set out on a new leg of the UK and International tour ahead of the show's 50th anniversary in 2023. The show opens at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre on Tuesday 4th October.

Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff in Rocky Horror Show.

For Welsh-born actor Kristian Lavercombe the show is a passion project and one that continues to enthrall and excite him as he continues his record-breaking run in the show as Riff Raff.

The role originated on stage and on screen by creator O'Brien and has been a long association for Kristian, one he began playing in the UK in 2010 and has continued to play in the show in the UK and internationally. 

For those who aren't au fait with the show, Kristian explained the show to me "in the words of Richard O'Brien its basically a fairy tale, so it's a pretty straight forwards story of an innocent young couple who get corrupted and the lessons we learn from the show is what happens when that couple get corrupted and depending on how you look it Frank 'N' Furter is either a good character or a bad character. It's basically a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. That's putting it very simply and cutting out all the plot!" We both laugh at the final statement.

Riff Raff, the demon butler if you will of the Frank 'N' Furter castle, Kristian explains the role "Richard O'Brien took all his inspiration for Rocky Horror from all the B-Horror movies and Sci-Fi films, and in nearly all those films there's a weird side kick, hunchback, manservant figure so he's really taken those archetypes from those old horror films and Riff Raff is a very important archetype and that's why he's in it. He's also the downtrodden, he is the poor slave that no matter what he does he gets in trouble"

It's clear how much affection and ease Kristian has when he talks about the show and that longevity of over 2000 performances as Riff Raff means to him. "I was thinking about this earlier this morning, with the 50th anniversary coming up, at the 40th anniversary I never would have imagined that I would be still doing at the 50th. That is a rare thing for any actor and it proves that I am a true Rocky Horror fan and people recognise that I am one of them. People who are fans of Rocky Horror see that I am one of them and not just an actor playing the role. I adore the show. It has been the theme of my teenage and adult life and it just keeps on coming back to haunt me in the best way."

The Riff Raff look is quite distinctive, the black jacket, the white waistcoat, and a stony white face but how does Kristian go about getting into the mind-frame of the character "when you're first doing a role you think about what gets you in the character but I've done this role so many times that it becomes almost second nature to me, that doesn't mean it becomes easy but now when I'm doing Riff Raff I don't really even need to think about the character really now the character is just a part of me. Obviously, the outward appearance, when people at stage door if people ask me to do Riff Raff's laugh or something in character it feels so peculiar and I feel such a fraud, so the make up and costume for me is very important, I'm quite a visual person so I really like to look in the mirror and see Riff staring back. Certainly, me singing 'The Time Warp' not as Riff would feel so unbelievably strange and I would probably shy away from that at all costs."

Riff Raff doesn't first appear until around 10 minutes into the show as he enters during the number 'Over At The Frankenstein's Place'. Being ready and gauging the audience's reaction is something you'll find Kristian doing as he prepares "with the tannoy in the dressing room which plays the on-stage sound and we can hear the audience as well so you can't help but gauge what kind of audience it is. You can tell pretty much straight away if it's going to a vocal audience, a bit crazy or a bit quiet. I subconsciously get all that information from those first couple of scenes. I'm basically ready before the curtain goes up. I've got my wig on, my makeup on and I'm ready to go from beginners even though I'm not needed straight away. I'm a fairly nervy kind of guy so the most important thing I do is try to chill out and not get too anxious about singing those first notes"

Kristian's entrance as Riff Raff in Rocky Horror Show.

For those who haven't seen the show, Riff Raff gets a quite exciting first appearance, appearing behind a moon during the number. It's not as glamorous as it may look to the audience "people say it's a grand entrance but from an actor's point of view it's really less glamorous that thing and I always find it quite interesting when people say it's a grand entrance because in many ways I try and go against this but I'm just an actor behind a piece of cardboard and you don't get any idea of what the audience is seeing or what the audience feels so you are a little bit detached from that especially when you're behind a piece of scenery so it sounds completely different, it looks completely different and from where I am I can see all the workings of behind the scenes which the audience can't see and it's not the most romantic of views"

Rocky Horror brings its own unique element with the role the audience plays in the show. From the dressing up to the audience callbacks that energy clearly affects a performance "I think whether you've been doing the show for 1 or 2 performances or if you've been doing the show for a couple of thousand then the audience always has an effect on your performance, whether that's just the way it feels as you do do the same thing every day but it can feel like a completely different performance if they're wild and vocal or if they're sitting there staring at you. There is a level of adrenaline that comes with a great audience that you can't help but bounce off and the audience becomes a very important part which is why all actors thrive having a good audience which is why actors get a bit cautious if there's a small audience cause often people are less vocal in a smaller audience because they're more self-conscious"

With the longevity in the show and the often called back lines what happens when there isn't a shoutout the actors may be expecting and does it throw them a little, Kristian explained "that always happens, I think that's something that happens nearly every night, sometimes it can be a really vocal audience but then you say a line that always gets a shout-out but then gets nothing and it's always a bit eggy, and you go a bit 'oh' and it becomes a little embarrassing as it can look like you've left a little space there and they haven't responded, that's actually part of live theatre and part of live Rocky Horror and you never know what's going to happen and every performance is unique. You have to mold the performance to what the audience wants and what they do but sometimes they do take us by surprise".

I won't spoil the journey that Riff Raff goes through for people who haven't seen but for Kristian, he hopes people see the character s one of those characters from the classic B-movies. "I would love for them to be able to look at Riff Raff and be transported back to the old horror films. I would love in an ideal world to be the sort of character that could be picked up and dropped into one of those horror films and look like they fit in that world. I just want to be authentic and honour Richard O'Brien's show and honour what inspired him to write the show in the first place"

With the 50th anniversary year approaching it's clearly something that will make this next leg of the tour something extra special "it makes it special, it's like having a big birthday like you're 40th or 50th coming up there is always a more exciting birthday than say you're 34 birthday so there's always a level of excitement that goes with that. We're all looking forward to it, of course, I've no idea what's happening for the 50th yet but certainly, I'd like to think it's going to be a really exciting year and the audiences are going to appreciate it even more than they normally. A show going for 50 years and still going strong is a rarity, I don't know many other shows that have managed 50 years, there are a few of them but considering the thousands and thousands of shows that have happened in that time and are no longer going it's quite an achievement."

During Kristian's run of the show, he's been fortunate enough to play the role alongside Richard O'Brien and to be filmed for broadcast into cinemas and internationally. He explains some of his highlights during the time "there have been too many to mention and they do all blend into one but there are certainly moments. The Playhouse was a highlight as it was filmed and put out there which hadn't happened to me before that, it was unexpected as we only got about 3 weeks notice to start rehearsals for that. To be honest, I really love taking the show to other countries, it's a new thing with how is the audience going to react and you get the excitement of getting to play in new places and theatres. I really love being immersed in those experiences. It's a really unusual experience for me as an actor to say be dropped into a South African cast where everyone is South African and it's interesting to see how they approach things differently and how the audiences differ. When I went with the show to Israel recently I was shocked by how wild the audiences were, I was expecting them to be quite conservative as more often than not the British audiences are the wilder audiences and they're the ones who do all the call-outs but Israel gave them a run for their money which I really wasn't expecting at all as other countries I've been to have been very appreciative of the show and they all dressed up but the call outs are at a minimum and that what I was expecting from Israel but that wasn't the case which was quite exciting as they were quite wild."

With a recent break from the show, Kristian has been able to travel including a stop-off in India (I highly recommend following his social media for some brilliant photography) but now the cast is about to head into rehearsals with the show resuming in Coventry. Kristian explained how he prepares for that time out on tour "touring is a challenging, challenging job, especially with weekly touring which is what Rocky Horror tends to do because basically, you travel around the country, say last year I wasn't anywhere longer than 7 days, your one day off is your travel day where you're maybe travelling for a couple of hours, have to get yourself set up, go to the supermarket and do all that sort of stuff. It's actually your busiest day so you never really get to chill out. When you're touring you actually need some time to recuperate especially if you get sick along the way then there's almost no recovery time and it can build up so by the end of the tour you can be literally hanging on by a string. So for me when I go into a new tour I want to make sure I'm rested and as healthy as I possibly can be. You know when you go along you're going to hit a few hurdles and you want to remain as healthy as you can be. It becomes a very challenging job if you're not in top form. I'm making it sound awful but I'm basically trying to say you have to try and be on top form all of the time and when I go into a new tour that's what I want from myself. I just want to be fit, healthy and happy."

Working with fellow returning cast members such as Stephen Webb (Frank 'N' Furter), Richard Meek (Brad) or Haley Flaherty (Janet) is clearly something helpful as you already have that working relationship ahead of the new leg of the tour. "Often the people who come back they come back for a reason apart from being really good performers and suited to the roles then it's also because the people slot really well into casts and give so much to other actors that they're a joy to work with and that really makes a difference. You really want a joyful cast because that year you're on tour away from your family and friends for most of the time, your family and friends become the people you're work colleagues which is a really unusual situation for work colleagues because you're thrown together so when you have a history with people like Stephen, Richard or Haley that you've toured with before it becomes much easier to slot in and get some sort of normality in your life"

Kristian (centre) with the 2021-22 UK and International Tour cast. Photo by Dave Freeman.
On the flip side of working with returning cast members, there are always new cast members joining and with such a deep knowledge of the part and the show Kristian certainly helps those new people settle into the world. "In rehearsals quite often I'm a handy person to have around to ask questions to. People who join the cast aren't in the cast because they have a history with Rocky Horror some people join the cast and have never seen the show or the movie, they're cast because they are really good singers, dancers and actors. People don't in the auditions ask if you've seen the movie or the show or if they know there's going to be the audience calling back, some people don't know any of that information so a lot of have done it before it's really our jobs to impart that in the best way we can. Between the people in this cast, we're probably the most experienced Rocky Horror Show people out there.”

Our chat turned to what Kristian would ask Riff Raff if had the chance to"you know what we don't go over in the show is what Transexual Transylvania is like, we have no idea what it's like on that planet or that galaxy. It would be fascinating to have a prequel to Rocky Horror where you get to see them before they come to Earth. I would absolutely adore that and that's what I want to know from Riff Raff, I want to know what it's like back home." Our chat diverts a little as we discuss this and fan fiction.

The chat ended with Kristian simply explaining why anyone should see Rocky Horror Show "its a piece of modern pop culture, it has endured for 50 years and there's a reason for that and if you haven't seen it you need to come along and experience the phenomenon that is Rocky Horror because you are one of a minority at this point and it's a lot of fun, we all have a great time. I know they say it's a party on stage and a party in the audience but it really is true. People come along and get dressed up and they're out for a good time. It's like no other theatre audience in the entire audience. The Rocky Horror audience is so individual to the show and you need to come along and experience."

Rocky Horror Show begins the next leg of its UK and International tour on Tuesday 4th of October 2022 at Belgrade Theatre in Coventry where it plays until Saturday 8th October. Tickets are available from The show tours with dates booking through 2023. Visit for details of the tour dates and booking information.

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