Theatre Interview: Steve Punt & Paul Cattermole, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Image Source: Ents 24

Provided By: Empire Theatre

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is back at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre. Fans of Rocky Horror will know exactly what to expect, but newcomers may soon realise that the term “variety show” is very vague when describing Rocky Horror. There’s a bundle of fun and unusual dancing to be had, along with some unforgettable sights amongst the audience themselves. To find out a little more, we spoke to Steve Punt and Paul Cattermole, both of whom have key roles in the latest production of Rocky Horror, and we discussed the story of the show, its most notable tunes, and of course thongs and fishnet stockings …

First of all, explain what The Rocky Horror Picture Show is all about.

Steve: “That’s a very good question. It’s about a couple whose car broke down and who go for help, and find that the place where they’ve gone for help is full of crazy people who turn out to be aliens who are busy building a human in a tank.”

Paul: “It’s awesome!”

Steve: “It’s a very strange, almost B-movie plot, with a lot of songs and a lot of fun and costumes and silliness.”

Tell us about your different characters in the show?

Paul: “Well, I play Eddie and Dr Scott. Eddie is a Gollum created by Frank (the lead character), he’s sort of a crazy rock ‘n’ roll star. Dr. Scott is a scientist who is pretending not to be German; it’s set in a village in America called Denton. Hopefully this makes sense! (Laughs)”

Steve: “I play the Narrator myself. The story is pretty surreal and odd, but it makes a lot more sense when you hear the songs.”

How did you get involved in this production?

Steve: “I was personally asked if I’d be interested in doing the show; my background is in stand-up comedy. And the Narrator role that I play talks directly to the audience, and is responsible for taking the audience through the story, which as I’ve said is quite weird (laughs). So, I think the idea was that I would do the part but also be able to react to the audience a bit and allow them to join in, which they sometimes do. So, yeah, I actually was asked to do it.”

Had you previously seen Rocky Horror before joining the cast?

Steve: “There was a screen filming of a live show in the West End at the Playhouse, so I saw the show then and it was awesome. I actually saw the film as a teenager, and I’d only ever seen the stage show once; I saw a production of it in the mid-90s with Tony Head, “Gold-Blend Man” (laughs), as Frank and it was great. But I think the stage version has slightly evolved over the years; certainly the way that the audience join in has been building every time that it’s toured, and it’s getting bigger and bigger each time.”

What are the key songs and dances that audiences should look out for?

Steve: “Well, there is the classic floor-filler The Time Warp, that’s the main song that people will dance to. As for other songs that have escaped from the show … there’s Sweet Transvestite, there’s the floor-show sequence at the end. It’s funny because some of my friends came to see the show earlier this year, and they all said that they knew The Time Warp, but that they’d forgotten how you remember every song in the show when you hear it. There’s a song called There’s A Light, which is one of those songs where as soon as you hear it, you think “Oh, it’s this one!” The show is full of those moments, like “Oh, it’s this one!” “Oh, it’s that one!” And there’s Hot Patootie which Paul sings at the end of the first half. The music is rock ‘n’ roll; it’s straight-forward, late 50s/early 60s almost pre-Beatles pop, but the story was written in the early 70s by Richard O’Brien, so it’s a mix of the two things. When you look at the story, you think “No, the 60s have definitely happened!” (Laughs) It is the timeless music of the early rock ‘n’ roll era.”

Are you looking forward to performing in front of a Liverpool crowd?

Paul: “Oh yeah, massively!”

Steve: “We did a week at the Empire in February which was great, and that’s why we’re heading back there. It’s always nice to go back with a poster saying “By public demand” where it actually is! So, we’re really looking forward to it.”

What can the audience expect if they are seeing Rocky Horror for the first time?

Steve: “Well, they can expect some of the audience to be dressed up in a series of outfits that will make no sense at all until you see the show! They can expect a lot of singing, dancing, silliness, fun, ray-guns, mad scientists, and strange Frankenstein creatures with half a brain jumping out of fridges! (Laughs) That’s what they can expect! It’s the kind of show that pulls you in, and it makes you get engaged. It’s not the kind of musical theatre show or theatre show of any kind where you can sit back and watch from a distance; it really pulls you in. And people will dance: be advised! (Laughs) At some point, you will be up and dancing, I guarantee you that.”

Finally, you mentioned the unusual costumes that the audience will wear. What is the strangest thing that you’ve seen a theatregoer wear when seeing this show?

Steve: “Ooh! I’ve said this a few times, but in Nottingham, it had just gone below 0 degrees, it was sleeting, and I saw a guy in a thong with tights and heels, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe how he was bearing the elements! There’s a choice really: you either get men in fishnets and stiletos who’ve come as Frank, you get gothy women who have come as Magenta, you get people in lab coats, but my favourite is when people come as Rocky, because Rocky wears nothing except a pair of leopard-skin Speedos, so you really want to come and see the show in the summer if you’re gonna come as Rocky, or bring a nice thick coat! (Laughs)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show runs in the Liverpool Empire Theatre until Saturday October 22. For ticket information, click here.

You can learn more about The Rocky Horror Picture Show by clicking here.