Interview: Joanne Clifton
More ballsy than Ballroom, Joanne Clifton has dropped the Glitter ball and hung up her dancing shoes to appear as Janet Weiss in the touring version of the cult musical, Rocky Horror.
I caught up with Joanne in her dressing room for a chat before the opening night of the show's visit to Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall. Joanne has only just arrived at the theatre but already looking gorgeous and completely unphased by the fact I've turned up to do the interview in costume ahead of the evenings performance.
Me: So, Joanne. Rocky Horror is actually older than you isn't it? Joanne: It's 45 years is it?
Me: Do you remember the first time you saw the film? Joanne: I actually do because I hadn't seen it before I got the audition through. I hadn't seen the film, I'd heard about the stage show but I hadn't seen the film at all so what they did, on the audition stuff that they sent me through to learn, they put links to both the stage show and the film too. I sat there, I was working on Flashdance at the time with Ben Adams, and we both got the audition so we we both watched it together and I loved it because I saw the audience call outs. The film, I didn't really understand but loved it anyway, and then I went into the audition room and I had to do the bed scene! I had to sit on a chair in front of a panel of four people and do the bed scene, by myself, I had no one to act with, so I came out the audition going, 'you know what, that's the most bizarre thing I've ever done, so I really want the job'.
Me: So you say you've watched the film and you've seen the video of the stage show. Have you based your performance of Janet on any particular actress?
Joanne: Well the thing is, because it's been going on for so long and I know there are so many amazing Janet's that have gone before me and amazing actresses, obviously Susan Sarandon and I tend to, when get a role, just watch the film or watch the stage show once and I get an idea of how a characters supposed to be but then I don't watch it again. For example when I did Thoroughly Modern Millie, I'll never be a Julie Andrews, so I watched it once and just put my own spin on it.
Me: Rocky is so well known, do you think the fans are expecting a certain performance from you?
Joanne: A tiny bit, there is a bit of pressure on because the hardcore fans, the cult followers, they'll have seen it for years and years and years and they'll have seen everybody do it so they'll have their favourites but I can't try and be someone that I'm not so I just try and put my own spin on it and hope for the best and it seems to be going down well.
Me: Were you prepared for the shout backs, the heckles?
Joanne: Well, nothing prepares you for them, lets be honest, our Director Christopher Luscombe and our Choreographer Nathan Wright, in the rehearsal room, we all spoke about it. We'd seen it on the audition link, and we did run throughs, we did quite a lot of run throughs, they would shout out the normal ones, so we kind of got used to the normal ones but that was only with two people. We got in Brighton when we opened and you've got a thousand people shouting at you and just NOTHING prepared me for it at all. It was the most amazing feeling, I came off that stage absolutely buzzing.
Me: Has anything really thrown you that they've shouted? Joanne: Oh a lot of rude things that I can't say on camera but I guess the most simple thing that I've laughed at, well there's two, theres one when Rocky says I'm trying to hide from my creator and his minion and someone held up an inflatable minion and went 'Banana', That got me and another one just before Brad starts singing in Superheros at the end, his first line is "I've done a lot' and somebody in the audience shouted out 'What have you done Brad?' and he goes 'I've done a lot' I don't know how he got through that. It tickled me completely.
Me: Outfit wise then you spend a lot of time in your underwear and some quite revealing outfits. Have your parents been to see the show? Joanne: And my Brother, Oh my God, my Parents, my Brother my Cousins, everybody, my Aunty and Uncle have been to see it, but you know, I've prepared them for it. Actually with Duncan James, when his Mum's in we have to tone down the bed scene because she really doesn't like it and so we tone it down. I had to prepare my Dad for the shout outs, obviously when they say Janet theres a bad word thats shouted out and I had to phone him and say 'you need to know that they're shouting at Janet, not Joanne. When my brother saw me in my bra and knickers he just went (puts head in hands), then again I've seen him in Rock of Ages and he did worse stuff than me.
Me: Dance wise then, obviously we know you primarily as a dancer, when did you train as an actress or did you do it all at the same time? Joanne: Well, I lived in Italy for fourteen years and then I did two months of Burn The Floor, and then I moved back to England because I got Strictly, so when I wasn’t on Strictly I was taking private lessons in singing and acting just to try and catch up with everyone else that had been to schools. But also in January and February I’m going to New York to study at an actual school. But it’s been five years I’ve been having private lessons.
Me: Do you see your future as an actress and singer?
Joanne: Yes, because I’m 35, my knees are giving way and I can’t dance that much longer.
Me: It hasn’t stopped Anton though has it?
Joanne: I guess not but in Rocky Horror I’m not actually dancing that much which I’m actually very pleased about.
Me: Have you not actually had much input with the choreography then?
Joanne: No, because I quiet like not having that stress and obviously we had to choreograph on Strictly and I quite like somebody else telling me what to do. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. But also it’s a completely different style to ballroom and Latin
Me: So your days now then are completely different to when you were competitively dancing or appearing on Strictly?
Joanne: Oh yeah
Me: Whats a typical day for you now?
Joanne: Well I get up really late, I go and have brunch with the girls in the cast, me and the musical Director, George, we go and do Escape Rooms and then I'm not called into work until 6.15/6.45 so I have my whole day free, go and do the show, which gives you a massive buzz and the audience are great, and it's quite a short show as well. Act One is 38 minutes, act two is 50 something minutes, come off stage, go to the pub, go to bed. Life's good!
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW RUNS AT THE ROYAL CONCERT HALL 28th AUG - 1st SEPTEMBER Wed-Thu 8pm, Fri & Sat 6pm & 9pm, Sun 4pm £18 - £45.50 plus discounts for Royal Members*, Under 16s, Under 26s, Groups, and Rocky Horror Fan Club members
For more details visit: http://www.trch.co.uk
Box Office: 0115 989 5555
*Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham Royal Membership scheme offering ticket discounts, exclusive pre-sales, meet the cast nights and more www.trch.co.uk/membership Interview by: Tanya Louise