WAAPA graduate Rob Mallett is basking in the glow of his new lead role as clean-cut Brad in the cult classic musical The Rocky Horror Show.
Mallett’s talents span across growing credits in Australian television including hit drama Desert Rats and House Husbands, and musical theatre (Hot Shoe Shuffle, Singin’ In The Rain).
Not stopping at performance and dance, Rob was a finalist in the Rob Guest Endowment Awards after performing as lead vocalist in A Cole Porter Celebration. Are triple threats (ie: singer, dancer, actor) like Rob the product of Perth’s highly successful WAAPA institute, or is it something else?
Here Rob Mallett chats with Cream about performing in cult theatre, his take on the current climate of sexism in the industry, and how he insists the show must go on, despite all the bad stuff.
Interview by Annette McCubbin
Hi Rob. Congratulations on landing the coveted lead role of Brad in Rocky Horror. Several talented actors have played Brad in successful seasons prior to you. What did you anticipate about playing the role?
Good question. Every actor has this notion that they will make a role their own or that they’ll bring some crazy dramatic flair to it. But with an iconic show like Rocky Horror, you really have to take stock of all the previous productions: the Tim Curries… the other Australian productions… and so on. This is the third show in five years. Audiences and fans are so fanatic about this show, they come to expect a certain product, so you do have to deliver within these strict parameters.
What do you make of the recent changes in the cast, including Adam Rennie coming into the fold as new lead Frank N Furter?
I think it’s exciting, and Adam is doing an amazing job. The show now feels collegial; it’s got this really great ensemble force behind it. I won’t delve into the Craig stuff too much, but…Well, you know, Adam has stepped up and saved it; it was just what the show and company needed.
Indeed. Adam has received rave reviews, which really proves something you said recently: that producers do need to break some expectations and take some risks; not just focus on ‘star’ leads…
Totally. I went to drama school, WAAPA in Perth, so I’m a trained skilled actor with a visual profile. It’s only reasonable for someone like me to have that standpoint that producers should be taking a chance by employing talented, trained people, rather than bowing down to pressures of employing people with a TV profile. And in some instances, it works. Like, Craig McLachlan was really talented and had amazing shtick and amazing rapport with the audiences. But he’s bit of an exception; there are other instances, where people of high profile are being paid extraordinary dollars to be in these shows and they don’t bring anything much more than other people in the industry could offer.
I saw ‘Rocky Horror’ many years ago, in the 1990s, and remember the saucy scenes that Brad had with Dr Frank N Furter. What’s it been like acting along newly minted understudy Adam Rennie who seems as mad as they get?
Like, riotous! The audiences looove it. It’s like any rock concert or festival gig I have been to, and the audience lap all that bawdy cheekiness up. Especially coming from the last couple of shows I did, Les Mis, all this dark stuff, to be up there and make people go through pure joy… That’s fun.
Yes, and ‘Rocky Horror’ is such interactive theatre. I did read how Craig Machlaclan was well known for his spontaneous retort to the audiences. I was wondering if that kind of spontaneous retort has been kept up by Adam?
Not so much. Adam has really been able to tap in and keep the audience engaged in the story. Craig was a master at letting the general public in and getting a bit cheeky with the front row, and all that stuff, but sometimes at the expense of losing track of the story and being caught up in gags. You know, it’s a huge pay off. People are saying how moved they are by the second act. Who would’ve thought Rocky Horror show was gonna move people? Adam is tapping into this touching heartfelt edge to it.
What scene do you love performing the most?
I love doing the bed scene. People are wetting themselves. Act Two… the naughty one… the floor show, we have a great laugh with that.
At a time where media speculation about sexual harassment claims among celebrities has finally burst open, how does something like that impact your performance and awareness of working in an entertainment industry?
It doesn’t impact it hugely. I like to think I maintain professional boundaries with all my colleagues: straight, gay, professional, young… It doesn’t matter. I grew up in a wholesome family with three sisters. But [that’s] not an indication of what behaviour is going to be like. Many of these people grew up in wholesome Christian families… Ummm…
So, having that kind of female influence, and working with female actors; does that make you more loyal to their cause?
Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong… I’m very glad the spotlight is on this issue. The behaviour and the bullying towards women from men of power in all industries. It boils down to abuse of power, mostly by men and companies who enable it. Time is up for these people of power in institutions. There needs to be this deeper cultural change, and we need brave women to speak up about it. And we need men to champion the women and the causes.
Absolutely. Has being a graduate from WAAPA afforded you entry through doors that might have otherwise been closed?
I mean, I wouldn’t be here without having gone to WAAPA. The training aside, being forced to believe you are a dancer, or an actor, is as much a mindset as it is a skill set.
The power of positivity.
Yeah. You know, to come out of school as an 18 years of age, it irons out some of that self-doubt in the industry; you are more reassured of yourself. Then, coming from a training institute like WAAPA, you graduate with a huge body work and are already on the front foot.
You’ve certainly tallied appearances in a lot of terrific shows… What career trajectory do you see yourself pursuing more: TV or musical theatre?
There is no perfect answer to that question; no silver bullet or perfect role or job. My whole thing is to maintain an interesting career [that has] diversity, and so, yeah, I’m striving to work in all facets of the industry.
‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is on at Crown Theatre from February 17 until March 4. Tickets are available through www.crownperth.com.au.