TALKING TO DOM JOLY
You may know home from the smash hit hidden camera series Trigger Happy TV, but did you know that multi-award winning comedian and writer is coming to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre this March? Playing the role of The Narrator in Richard O’Brian’s hit musical, The Rocky Horror Show, we caught up with the devilishly funny Dom Joly to talk fishnets and frolicks on stage.
YOU FULFILL THE ROLE OF THE NARRATOR IN THIS YEARS ROCKY HORROR SHOW – HOW HAS THE EXPERIENCE ON STAGE BEEN FOR YOU SO FAR?
It’s been an absolute journey really. I think people assume that I’ve done lots of live stuff before, but I don’t do stand-up so I’ve not really done anything live, or anything like this.
When they first offered it to me, I thought “you must be joking!”. Literally, if you were to describe my worst anxiety dream it would cross-dressing musical theatre – it would be a nightmare. But actually, whoever chose me thought about it really well.
I haven’t seen a lot of musical theatre, and I think to me it’s a bit like going into a casino for the first time and winning big – I don’t think I could beat this show, because it’s so insane and the audience are such a big part of the show. They know the show better than the people on stage and they react, and they shout stuff and it’s my job is to be the guy in the middle trying to keep the thing together, trying to be funny back to the audience without annoying them.
I think what I really like about it is that it’s theatre, and I’m getting all that experience, but I’m allowed to be me and riff – which is what I love doing. I love ad-libbing and I’m not very good with scripts, so every night is totally different, which is kind of frightening but it’s brilliant as well.
ADORED MY MILLIONS FOR DECADES, THE SHOW HAS A COMMITTED CULT FOLLOWING – HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN A FAN? WHAT ARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW?
I honestly didn’t know too much about it. I remember in the early ‘90s I staggered into a late-night cinema in Notting Hill and watched Rocky Horror, but I didn’t really know what I was going to see. I just remember people standing up and putting umbrellas up and throwing rice, and I was just like, ‘what the f**k is this?’ I kind of enjoyed it but I had no idea what I had just seen.
I don’t go to the theatre so I had never seen the theatre show. It was amazing when I came to do it at the rehearsals I knew pretty much every single song, and I think that’s another aspect of it that’s so strong. I think people think of it as being very schlep and weird, but the music is absolutely unbelievable. Almost every song is a classic, and it was written in 1973 and that’s kind of my favourite era of music – it’s like David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.
We’ve got a live band and the music has really stood the test of time. I think that’s really why it’s so amazing. It has these incredible singalong songs, and it’s also got some really moving songs.
THE SHOW HAS AN UNDOUBTEDLY KILLER SOUNDTRACK – HAVE YOU GOT A FAVOURITE?
For me, it’s ‘I’m Going Home’. I’m a bit of a sucker for a chalk song anyway and ‘I’m Going Home’ is so amazing. You have this madness and weirdness with everyone shouting – and that’s when the show works or it doesn’t. On a perfect night, when ‘I’m Going Home’ starts it suddenly changes the mood, and everyone’s like ‘oh my god, this is actually staggeringly beautiful’, and everyone goes quiet and listens to it.
Occasionally you get people that shout all the way through, and I think ‘have you got no soul?’ Our Frank N Furter, Steven Webb, is seriously amazing. It’s normally given to a pop-star, but he’s a West End star and I think he gives it a really different dynamic. He’s amazing.
YOU ARE OF COURSE THE NARRATOR OF THE SHOW, MASTER OF CEREMONIES IF YOU LIKE – ARE THERE ANY ANOTHER CHARACTER’S IN THE SHOW THAT YOU SHARE A PARTICULAR AFFINITY WITH?
Well, Riff Raff is fun to play. I think I’m too old for Rocky, and I wouldn’t look great in Leopard print pants. I love Brad, and the fact that he’s all nerdy. I love all the characters, but I think The Narrator is perfect for me.
A BIG PART OF THE SHOW IS THE AUDIENCE DRESSING UP AND GETTING INVOLVED – HAVE YOU ENJOYED PUTTING THE STOCKINGS ON YOURSELF?
I am an ex-goth, so it’s a little less of a jump for me than maybe most people. I spent maybe seven years of my youth in guy-liner and some weird fishnet-type black stuff, so actually, it’s a bit like going home. Just another day at the office.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER THEATRICAL OR MUSICAL STAGE PRODUCTIONS YOU’D BE KEEN ON APPEARING IN?
Do you know what, I would never, ever, ever have imagined that I would be in any kind of musical theatre? This has given me an appetite for it, but I think it’s a really particular role and it suits me perfectly. If someone else thought there was a role they thought I could do that would be amazing, but literally, you couldn’t design a better role than the Narrator for me.
YOU’RE A KEEN TRAVELLER AND HAVE GOT A NEW BOOK ‘THE HEZBOLLAH HIKING CLUB’ COMING OUT IN MAY, TALES OF TREKKING LEBANON WITH FRIENDS – CAN YOU TELL US ANYMORE?
I grew up in Lebanon, but there was a war going on all the time so I never got to explore the country, and it’s such a beautiful country. I grew up with all these pictures of my parents and my older brothers and sisters going on these amazing expeditions into the mountains of Lebanon, and I always felt a bit like it was someone else’s history.
I think when I turned 50 I thought that I had blocked growing up in Lebanon a lot, and thought maybe it was time I went back. I went there with two of my best friends, and thought it would be a really interesting way of looking at the country.
I think when people hear the word Lebanon they think it’s a war zone, and to an extent, it has been. There are still dodgy areas, but it’s an amazing country to visit, and there’s just no one there.
I found out about this thing called the Lebanon Mountain Trail, which is an attempt by the Lebanese government to get people to become tourists in Lebanon. It’s basically a 27-day walk from the Israeli border in the south, to the Syrian border in the north. One of the best things I’ve ever done.