After years of global success, the smash musical, Rent, has arrived in Scotland. We asked star ADAM RICKITI' if Rent wasn’t overdue.

Words: Steve Cramer


n the flesh. Adam Rickitt is a self-

deprecating sort of guy. Young. good-

looking and the possessor of an engaging personality. he’s the kind of person you should resent, but you just can't get around to it. After an extended period as Coronation Street‘s teenage heartthrob Nicky Tilsey. and a brief stint as a pop star. Rickitt has taken to the boards in a role that might shock the admirers of his Mr Clean image.

All the same. for a musical that takes on the issue of AIDS. featuring a number of gay characters. not to mention prominent heroin addiction. Rent has attracted a huge pool of admirers. Its Broadway debut in I996 received acclaim from a relatively conservative audience and the critics waxed lyrical. Its author. Jonathan Larson. did not live to see the first night. nor its garnering of an endless succession of awards. giving the piece an added. tragic. mystique.

Now. there are plenty of straight dramas that deal with much the same controversial content. but the musical is not generally regarded as an

Even so. musical audiences are notoriously conservative. How do they deal with the issue of AIDS? ‘Sure. it touches on AIDS.' says Rickitt. ‘but what’s really important is the journey the characters take. which audiences understand. I’ve never known anyone who died

of AIDS. but I've had friends who died of

cancer. and the important thing about the script is that it gives people a way of relating to this

process. if not the very specific experiences of

the characters. I‘ve also known friends who were in love and denied it and this is very hurtful to them. The script is about that. too. not just about the big. controversial issues.’ Rickitt is engagineg candid about how he created his character. one that he sees as

unusually three dimensional. ‘There‘s a lot of

ways I can relate to him.‘ he says. ‘At the beginning. he‘s detached himself from life. he‘s a filmmaker. and the things that have hurt him have caused him to hide behind his camera. I went through a similar kind of thing when I

first came into the business. There was a lot of

exposure and it really freaked me out. I became

‘The peOpIe who are shocked early on are the same people who are up on their feet applauding at the end.

appropriate vehicle for this sort of thing. Rickitt. though. claims that its effect is surprising. ‘People are shocked by the subject matter and the language.” he says. ‘In the first song a character says "fuck". But no one has walked out yet. In fact. I’d swear that a lot of the people who are shocked early on are the same people who are up on their feet applauding at the end of the show.‘

Rickitt says the secret of the show's success is in its essential difference from the tradition of the musical. By rupturing our expectations. it allows itself to rewrite the rulebook. ‘What sets this apart from other musicals is that you can think of it as a play with a soundtrack.’ he says. ‘There's a real story here. If you took away the score. which is fantastic. you'd still need really good acting to carry it off. This isn't true of all musicals.’

22 THE LIST 15—29 Mar 2001

very detached and hid myself away. I began to live my life through what other people said about me in the tabloids. I stopped enjoying myself.just like this guy has.‘

Rickitt also has a story about the play’s late author: ‘Wherever the play is done in the world. Jonathan Larson's dad. Al goes to see it. The other day. he came to see our production. We were petrified. His son had virtually given his life for it; it was the complete panic and stress of putting it on that contributed to his death. We really wanted it to be right for his father. After the show he came back and said to us. “You’ve got it. Perfect". We were so relieved that we’d got the spirit that his son had felt so much for.”

Rent, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Mon 26-Sat 31 Mar. See review, page 62