The Rocky Horror Show Sunderland
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Sunderland Empire: The Rocky Horror Show with Joe McFadden

Caroline Dask sits down to have a chat with Joe McFadden who will be playing the Narrator in The Rocky Horror Show, coming to Sunderland Empire this January…

The Rocky Horror Show follows a storyline of two squeaky clean college kids – Brad and his fiancée Janet. When by a twist of fate, their car breaks down outside of a creepy mansion whilst on their way to visit their former college professor, they meet the charismatic Dr Frank’n’Furter. It is an adventure they’ll never forget, filled with fun, frolics, frocks, and frivolity.

It’s a guaranteed party, and this January the party is coming back to Sunderland. This time, a seasoned actor and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Joe McFadden is returning to the musical as the Narrator, for a limited run in Sunderland.

Joe is currently playing in Beauty and The Beast, in Wycombe Swan Theatre until 31 December, however, he’s eagerly counting down the days to hit the stage at Sunderland Empire from 8 January until 13.

North East audiences should buckle up for this one-off special moment as Joe is more than qualified to don his fishnets as the Narrator and join this extraordinary cast in Sunderland to deliver charisma, charm and witty repartee.

How does it feel to return to the role of the Narrator, and what drew you back to it?

It’s just such a lovely part because he’s as much part of the audience as the actual audience is. He’s sort of watching it, commenting on it and guiding the audience through the story. So, it’s wonderful because it means you can dip in and out, you can come and go, and I really enjoy that.

I’ve never played in Sunderland before, and I know that when it comes to the North of England, the audience is very much up for having a nice time. Some audiences are a bit quieter, some louder, and then there’s the North of England. Northern audiences are much more vocal and they’re very much like that in Glasgow too, it’s an unbelievable feeling.

I was just looking at the Sunderland Empire online and it’s a beautiful theatre. That’s the wonderful thing about doing tours like this is you get to visit all these gorgeous theatres that you’ve never been to. It makes you realise you don’t have to come to London to see fantastic shows.

With your extensive career spanning both stage and screen, how does performing in a live musical production like The Rocky Horror Show differ from other acting experiences you’ve had?

The Rocky Horror Show Sunderland

Earlier in the year I was in a quite dark Agatha Christie play, called The Miracle Act, which toured for 10 months. I had a wonderful time with it, and then I was doing pantos, but the thing about The Rocky Horror Show is that it’s so joyous.

With shows like this, where the songs uplift you, you can’t help but go in and have a really nice time. The music is a big element, and I love theatre and straight plays but there’s something really joyous about doing a musical.

The Rocky Horror Show sounds like a rock concert, and to think that it’s 50 years old is unbelievable. It sounds so fresh like it could have been written yesterday.

As the musical celebrates its 50 anniversary, it continues to captivate audiences all around. What do you think are the elements that make the show so successful?

I think it’s the simplicity. It’s quite a simple story full of rich and complicated characters, and it’s funny storyline, it makes you laugh and that’s a testament to the writers, the directors and the cast.

Christopher Luscombe, the director, has mined out every moment of comedy, panto and heartbreak and turned it into something spectacular. Everything you’d want from a good theatre show is in there and that’s what makes it so special.

What aspects of the Narrator’s character do you find the most intriguing or enjoyable to portray?

As the Narrator, the most interesting thing about the role is that you never know what you’re going to get from the audience. There’s a vague script that we do every night but then sometimes the audience will just throw something in there that you’re not expecting, and they can see on my face that I’m completely floundering and that’s what makes my job interesting.

That’s when things go wrong or off the script, I don’t even mind because it means that the audience is getting something special, and something that last night’s audience didn’t get.

It’s not one of these roles where you learn the script and you just go on and do it, in The Rocky Horror Show you have to keep your wits about you and that’s the most exciting thing.

The Rocky Horror Show has been celebrated for its boundary-pushing themes and bold storytelling. As the Narrator, how do you approach presenting these themes to a diverse audience while ensuring everyone can enjoy the show?

The Rocky Horror Show Sunderland

The show in itself is certainly a celebration of people who are different and that’s been its appeal ever since it started 50 years ago at the Royal Court. No one had ever really seen anything like it before. It was trailblazing and it was the acknowledging that we’re all different. No two people are the same, they can pretend and they can point the finger at others but ultimately, we all want the same things and this show is an absolute celebration of that.

It’s wonderful when you see men coming with their wives and they’re dressed up in stockings and suspenders, and you can tell they’ve never done it before and it’s massively liberating.

The Rocky Horror Show in itself shows that your clothes don’t really make a difference. It’s who you are inside that counts. And if people can wear whatever they want, people can do whatever they want.

What aspects of the Narrator’s character resonate with you?

There’s not many differences between me and the character, I’m just pretty much being myself! In the movie, the Narrator is very English and upper-class, and I did toy with the idea of going down that road but then I felt that if the directors wanted someone like that, they would not have given me the job!

The character is just a slightly elevated version of me.

What kind of message do you want the Sunderland audience to take away from The Rocky Horror Show?

I’d love for the audience to take away that we’re all wrong in the right ways, we’re all weirdos and that’s okay! You can express yourself in whatever way you see fit, and should allow other people to do the same.

The Rocky Horror Show will astound Sunderland audiences from Monday 8 – Saturday 13 January. Tickets are available online here.