Thursday, 29 October 2015

INTERVIEW Craig Revel Horwood

pic credit Paul Coltas

I must admit it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I pick up the phone to interview Craig Revel Horwood.
The 50-year-old dancer, choreographer and theatre director is probably best known for his withering put downs as judge on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing. Meting out often cutting and caustic criticism he has earned a bit of a reputation as Mr Nasty on the show.
However, I can promise you he is nothing like his Strictly persona - indeed, he is warm, friendly and full of the joys when we chat and eager to talk about his role as Miss Hannigan in the touring production of Annie.
The run includes a stop at the New Wimbledon Theatre for a week from Tuesday, November 10.
The show is set in 1930s New York during The Great Depression, where brave young Annie is forced to live a life of misery and torment at Miss Hannigan’s orphanage.
Determined to find her real parents, her luck changes when she is chosen to spend Christmas at the residence of famous billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.
However the spiteful Miss Hannigan, who has a pathological hatred of children, and her brother, have other ideas and between them they hatch a plan to spoil Annie’s search.
With its award-winning book and score, this new production includes the unforgettable songs It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, I Don’t Need Anything But You and Tomorrow.
For Craig, it is a chance to get back to his acting roots, something he admits he hasn't done for "about 20 years". And he says he's relishing the opportunity to flex his acting muscles and show audiences there's more to him than Strictly and dance choreography.
"It's great to be able to do proper acting again," he says warmly. "I started out as an actor but then chose to go down the directorial and choreographic route so it's nice to be back on stage with a dressing room and visiting all these amazing theatres across the country.
"We are going to some lovely places during the run - I've directed shows in plenty of them but never trodden the boards there so I'm loving it.
"I've seen loads of shows at Wimbledon over the years - it's a lovely theatre so I'm really excited to be playing here.
"I will be staying in Wimbledon during the run which will give me the chance to get to know the area a bit too.
"It's a bit of escapism living as an actor and out of a suitcase - in fact it's quite exciting as I've not done it for so long," he adds.
"You become part of a family when you are on tour and I really like that.
"If I'd been doing it for 20 years I would be so over it though," he laughs. "But every week is a new fresh place to go to and experience."
Despite his enthusiasm he admits he was initially a bit reticent about taking on the role of Miss Hannigan. And he insists he is playing her straight and not as Craig Revel Horwood in drag.
"I'd not done proper acting for about 20 years so was a bit unsure but she's a great character and that's what attracted me and persuaded me to take on the role," he says.
"It's great fun and a real challenge because she's a proper gin soaked lush and so when I'm on stage I'm either drunk or hunger. My first scene is at 4am and I'm in lingerie completely slaughtered!
"She's an alcoholic, desperate, hates children and is a man hungry woman. She's in a desperate state which is why she and her brother go about pretending to be Annie's parents before killing her."
Despite this Craig says she has a heart though concedes that getting over the potential child killer label is not easy.
"She has a back story like most people and she's lonely," he says. "She's looking for love just like Annie and is a desperate lonely soul.
"She wants to find answers in the bottom of a bottle and because she is a terrible alcoholic and desperate for money she gets led by her brother into this awful situation.
"She's a complex character and it's my job to bring out the complex layers of this person. It does take some convincing though," he laughs.
"I do like playing a villain though - for me it's a far more interesting role."
With his astonishing workload of his Strictly commitments and the tour doesn't it all get a bit much I wonder? Not a bit of it.
"I thrive on the pressure and am always busy and on the go," he says warmly. "There are long hours - especially at the moment with Strictly - but I love it and I'm having a ball playing Miss Hannigan.
"It's rather exhausting but Lesley Joseph takes over on Saturdays while I do Strictly which is great. I'm 6ft 4in and in heels so I tower over the kids. Some of the children tower over Lesley though as she's tiny," he roars with laughter.
So what of Strictly this year and does Craig have any predictions for who might end up with the Glitter ball trophy?
"Anton and Katie could win the competition," he says. "The trouble is Anton's not used to having someone who can dance but their Viennese Waltz a couple of weeks ago was a gorgeous dance and he packed it full of steps which he didn't do the week before.
"It's a lot more difficult if they can't dance though - you have to use your creativity but he's brilliant at that.
"If Jake can control his nerves he has got an opportunity and Peter Andre of course is a favourite with people and that can help you win. Helen George is a very good dancer and Georgia too. Jeremy is amusing to a lot of people as they like his story and his journey."
So would he ever be a contestant on the show I ask?
"No darling!" he roars with laughter. "They couldn't pay me nearly enough to be on it!
"No I love my acting at the moment. I'm in panto after Strictly and then the Strictly tour next year - it's all go!"

Annie is on at New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, from Tuesday, November 10 until Saturday, November 14. Tickets from £12.50. Visit or call the box office on 0844 871 7646.

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