I was a mere ‘slip of a lass’ when I first encountered The Rocky Horror Show. I remember my mum dropping me off at Bradford Alhambra wearing a black bin bag which had been stapled down the back to mimic a leather dress. Unbeknown to my mum, underneath I was trussed up wearing stockings and suspenders and a corset I had discovered in a charity shop, the idea was to rip off my dress on arrival at the theatre to fit in with the rest of the audience, not for one minute did I ever consider my explanation for returning home without a ‘dress’ but that’s another story…
All the upset caused by ‘dress-gate’, didn’t dampen my love and enthusiasm for the naughtiest thing I had ever seen, I was hooked and three years later I was getting paid for parading around the streets of Bradford in fishnets and bondage boots as part of the show’s promotional team.
Fast forward 30 years, I still have my bondage boots, which are covered in dust and red wine stains, my Rocky memories of outlandish and crazy behaviour have, over the years, slowly dwindled away and have been replaced by sensible walking shoes and Spandex pants.
For those of you who haven’t encountered The Rocky Horror Show experience, it centres around Brad and his fiancée Janet, two squeaky clean college kids who meet Dr Frank’n’Furter by chance when their car breaks down outside his house. It’s an adventure they’ll never forget, with fun, frolics, frocks and frivolity, bursting with timeless songs and
outrageous outfits. The Rocky Horror Show is a guaranteed party, which famously combines science-fiction, horror, comedy and music while encouraging audience participation meaning, of course, getting dressed in the most outrageous fancy dress. It’s the boldest bash of all, so I wasn’t surprised to discover that when the show comes to Manchester’s Opera House Theatre from 9th-26th January, actor Beverley Callard will be playing the Narrator, and you don’t get much bolder than ‘our Beverley’!
Originally hailing from Leeds, Beverley Callard is best known for playing Liz McDonald in Coronation Street. She’s been busy parading up and down the cobbles in her best fish nets, leopard print and red lipstick for almost 30 years, so her role in Rocky doesn’t seem too dissimilar.
“I absolutely love it! I’ve seen it a few times,” Beverley smiles. “I watched the film again recently and I thought ‘oh my goodness, wow, I am in for a treat’ although I am scared.”
Scared? What ‘our Liz’ (sorry, Beverley), is fearless, surely?
“I’m a massive worrier,” she giggles, “it’s like a filthy pantomime with audience participation so I’m nervous but I have to tell you… I can’t wait! People tell me it’s good to be nervous, but the audience go bananas in The Rocky Horror Show – they take water pistols and all sorts. You can’t beat having an audience. It’s amazing, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to hear the audience laugh. To go to the theatre is the most amazing experience.”
And it’s not just Beverley who’s looking forward to it, she assures me her Coronation Street cast mates are looking forward to it too including her on screen granddaughter, Ellie Mulvaney, who plays granddaughter Amy.
It’s like a filthy pantomime with audience participation…
I can’t wait!
“She’s 16 and she said to me the other day ‘I’m coming to see it’ and I said, ‘listen, please don’t tell your Mum I am forcing you to come to it, I really don’t want that! But then I think, they know more than we do these days don’t they?”
Speak for yourself Bev! However, I’m sure Beverley has learnt a thing or two over the years due to the fact she has had two children.
“I was 18 when I had Rebecca and 32 when I had Josh so there’s a big age gap and it’s so much more knackering when you’re older. I also have three stepchildren and three grandchildren so we’re like the Von Trapp’s when we get together!”
I honestly don’t know how she does it, balancing a family life with a relentless filming schedule on Coronation Street, this lass is a ‘worker’, and certainly not work shy.
“I’m a workaholic,” she readily admits, “just like my parents. I try not to be, but I find it quite difficult to relax and just switch off.”
Born in Leeds, Beverley’s dad was a baker while her Mum worked as a pianist, so I wondered if she could play Beethoven while making a cake?
“I can do neither. I’m terrible! I have a sister who is a headmistress in Leeds and neither of us can bake or play piano. We both rebelled and now we regret it.
“My parents are dead now, but my Dad started off just working for someone else and then got his own shop. He was a confectioner as well as a baker, I remember him making a complete tea service out of chocolate. He was an incredible man. And mum was amazing too, they were great parents.”
Now, despite being a Yorkshire lass, Beverley has spent the majority of her life across the border in Lancashire, so once I had learned that she had a few choice tattoos I wondered, if she had the choice of a new tattoo to celebrate her favourite county, would it be the white rose of Yorkshire or red for Lancashire?
“Goodness me… could I not have one of each?” she replies. “I could always blend the two and opt for a pink rose instead,” she laughs. I’ve been chatting with Beverley a fair while now and it’s clear to me that she’s as honest as the day’s long, which in turn makes her completely charming, funny and lovable, it’s difficult to believe that throughout the years Beverley has battled depression.
“I try my best,” she sighs, “I had clinical depression a few years ago and I try and switch off, but depression and mental illness affects a lot of people who are perfectionists, people pleasers and we demand more of ourselves. Mindfulness does really help me and once I was on the road to recovery I went to mindfulness classes. I do my upmost to do it.
“This time of year’s bad with the dark mornings and dark nights, they don’t help. Depression and poor mental health tend to be the curse of the strong. Sometimes you just have to remember you can’t be strong for everybody. You have to be strong for yourself first and if you’re feeling bad you have to ask for help but that does take great strength. The more you
sink into that black hole the harder it becomes so it’s a vicious circle but once you get the right help, everyone can get better, but the right help is different for different people.”
She’s a strong lady is Beverley, and in her role as Liz McDonald she’s had her fair share of ups and downs, so, if she had the opportunity to play any other character past or present from the show, who would it be?
“Oh, that’s a good one!” she chuckles, “It would have been Elsie Tanner or maybe Bet Lynch as Julie Goodyear trained me in the art of Coronation Street. I adore that woman,” Beverley smiles. “The first time I worked in the Rovers she showed me the technical aspects of working on set, working the props, finding cue lights, pressing the till, pulling pints while trying to remember your lines all at the same time. Julie, Bill Tarmey, Roy Barraclough and Betty Driver were just amazing and as actors they were all so giving. Hopefully [people] will say that about me as I just think you have to help new actors who come into the business. I don’t know if I could do as good a job as they did but they were great characters.”
And so too is Beverley. In my eyes she is ‘Corrie Royalty’ and despite me calling her Liz on a couple of occasions she takes it on the chin. Without a doubt, Beverley is most certainly a great character just like her predecessors who have gone before her.
I have loved my time with Beverley, we’ve been chatting like long lost friends and have a lot in common – we’re both fiery Yorkshire red heads and we both love The Rocky Horror Show and as the interview draws to a close, she insists that we must meet up after one of the shows so we can hit the Manchester nightlife and party the night away. So, if you see someone hobbling around in wine stained bondage boots wearing a plastic bin bag as a dress while doing The Time Warp up Deansgate, that’ll be me.
The Rocky Horror Show
Northern Tour Dates
Opera House, Manchester
9 January 2019 – 26 January 2019
18 February 2019 – 23 February 2019
29 April 2019 – 4 May 2019
York Grand Opera House
10 June 2019 – 15 June 2019
Winter Gardens Blackpool
24 June 2019 – 29 June 2019