We are focusing on Bat Out of Hell for the entire month of June and this week we have an exclusive interview with Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington about their lives while starring in Bat Out of Hell…
For anyone that hasn’t seen the show, can you explain a little about the storyline and how your characters fit into it?
Andrew: I play Strat, he is the leader of this Lost gang where all the members are 18 and never age. We’re set in this post-apocalyptic world; the island of Manhattan, due to some cataclysmic event, has broken off from the rest of the country and floated out to sea.
On this island, there’s a dictator named Falco who Strat is rebelling against and in the process, he is doing his best to liberate the people of Obsidian, give them equality, make them all feel special and give them value in their lives. As he is rebelling against Falco and this violent revolution, he suddenly realises that Falco has a beautiful daughter whose name is Raven…
Christina: We find Raven on the eve of her 18th birthday. She has been watching Strat and the gang of The Lost for basically as long as she can remember. They have all the freedom and liberation that she’s always wanted so she eventually manages to escape and meet Strat. From there it’s all about love for the two.
Andrew, you were involved in the show from the workshop stage, so what was that like and how was it for you, Christina, joining a little later. Did you both know how big the show would end up?
C: Absolutely not! I did, I guess, have an average audition process, I say average in that I got the call from my agent and I went to various rounds, but that was probably where the average ended. There were lots of very interesting movement workshops that we did, I got paired with different people to read the Strat and Raven scenes. We also had stamina tests to see if we could sing the songs multiple days in a row. So I would come in and sing ‘All Coming Back to Me Now’ four or five times, getting higher and higher and higher, and then come back the next day and do it all again to see if I could sustain it. I thought it was a fantastic challenge – great fun!
I don’t think I ever thought it would be this big and I don’t think I ever thought that it would be such a wonderful experience for me, personally and professionally, to grow in the way I perform. It’s been really wonderful. It was great also working with Andrew because he already had the job so wasn’t part of the audition process. It was really interesting reading against all the potential alternate Strats but never reading with the actual Strat so it’s serendipity that it’s all worked out so well.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
A: I have two posters in my dressing room where I’ve put all the rock and roll idols that I think inspire the show; there’s Jim Morrison, there’s Chuck Barry, there’s Jimi Hendrix, Meatloaf, Jim Steinman and Iggy Pop. I basically ask that they come and help us on this journey because the show takes a lot of energy, you’ve got a lot of bodies up there that are burning 10,000 calories a minute!
C: My pre-show ritual is also really rock and roll… I listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks everyday, every single day. From after warm up until just before the half to kind of calm my brain down. Cause it’s something I’m so familiar with it kind of clears my head of everything that’s an outside influence. Then once it hits the quarter I play different music everyday that I think Raven would listen to, so then it does become slightly more rock and roll! So from me to Raven really
Have you had any onstage mishaps?
C: Oh yeah!
C: One the other day was really good. Andrew fell off the tower when he jumped down…
A: Cool, lets just talk about the one where I hurt myself!
C: No but it’s brilliant because in this show a mishap often becomes something incredible because Jay (Scheib) has encouraged us to be really free and flexible. In rehearsals he often asked up to include falls on purpose to force ourselves to be really in the moment. If you see the show, you’ll notice that I fall over on-purpose-accidentally a lot… it’s a real trope for Raven.
A: I think probably the biggest mishap was our first preview ever in Manchester. I had it in my mind that I would run down to the bottom of the stage and bring Christina along with me and I just slipped and we just started flying towards the end of the stage. In Manchester there was just an 8 metre drop and I knew that if we fell we’d probably not have legs like we have now! Fortunately, Christina grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and kept me from falling.
C: So fans of Andrew Polec, you’re welcome!
Bat Out of Hell is so full on, how do you relax and calm down after a show?
C: It is difficult to go to sleep afterwards because it’s so exciting. At the end of the show every night there’s a massive buzz from the audience, they’re on their feet, screaming and you feel like a rockstar with everyone coming together to celebrate this amazing music. I guess I like to eat after the show, watch something good and try and chill out.
A: Yeah, food is nice!
You have a five minute break in rehearsals, what are you doing?
C: I don’t wanna say eating again! We’re probably chatting about something that’s happened in rehearsals. We do tend to talk a lot about constantly looking for ways to do things differently and improve so you’ll probably just catch us discussing.
A: Mostly we’re walking up the stairs!!
What’s your favourite part of each others track?
C: One of my favourite bits ever is after I leave Revved, I stand at the side, and I watch from the stage left wing and the screen of Hope Rock, Andrew and the main Lost gang singing the end of Revved. I think it’s absolutely incredible and I love it. I think Andrew is a force of nature and I love watching it, it’s so exciting and there’s so much visceral energy. Raven doesn’t ever see that Strat which I think is so wonderful because she sees a completely other side of him. So it’s really interesting for me to see that force.
A: I really, really admire Raven’s whole scene in her bedroom during Heaven Can Wait. If I have enough time after the interval preparations and can get down to the video screen then I watch the perspective of the camera as she sings the whole song and it’s really cool. She blows it out of the water every night, she remarkable!
Are you like your characters at all?
C: I’d love to say yeah, I’m really cool like Raven but I guess I can be tempestuous sometimes like she can. The thing about Raven is that she’s all about life or death, that first love that is absolutely everything. In that way I guess we share something that we both think love is probably the most important thing in life. But the intensity with which she feels it is more like 17 year old me than it is current me.
A: I guess Strat and I are both hopeful. I think what surprises people when they meet me is that I’m more soft spoken than Strat. Considering he just shouts on stage all night, I think when they meet me they’re like “where’s your high-octane energy?”.
They’re certainly characters and they continue to grow and develop everyday that we work on them. They’re good friends to have around.
Other than yourselves, who would you like to see play your roles?
A: I think I’d love to Jim Morrison to play this part, I think that would be a lot of fun. Or someone like Elvis would be really fun.
C: Ellen Foley was involved in the first stages of the show playing the Wendy/Raven character so it’d be really cool to see what she would do with Raven as she is now.
A: You’re absolutely right, I mean Jim Steinman hands down should be playing Strat- he’s even on the t-shirt.
C: If it had to be someone from the cast I think one of the super swings should have a go. I’d pay good money to see someone like Jono play Raven!
Finally, can you tell me your best piece of advice for anyone wanting to get into performing?
C: I would say, be very sure of yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. Believe in yourself and your ability because no one else can do that bit for you.
A: Love what you do, no matter what you end up doing. As long as you take joy in your work then you’ve found the secret of life and you’ll be happy.
C: and be nice!
Watch the full interview plus some fun games here:
Thank you Holly for organising all of this, Andrew and Christina for filming with us, Sophia for being camera woman extraordinaire and all the lovely staff at the Dominion Theatre.
Join us next week to see Emily Benjamin become her character, Mordema!
Bat Out of Hell is currently at the Dominion Theatre until 27th October 2018
Interview by Editor, Olivia Mitchell
photo credit: Specular