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It's Nearly time for tea

Mr Rocky Horror talks about his latest project

xMention Richard O'Brien's name and people remember one of two things -he wrote The Rocky Horror Show or, for a certain age group, presented The Crystal Maze.
O'Brien is instantly recognisable with his shiny bald head and trademark devilish stare.
But the 61-year-old isn't resting on his laurels. He's appearing as Zebedee in upcoming film The Magic Roundabout Movie, working on a production of lvor Novello's The Dancing Years, as well as appearing on a charity album.

And he'll be keeping busy for the foreseeable future -or at least until his 14-year-old daughter Amelia is older and he can retire for good.

"I have a four or five year plan. I want to return to New Zealand, where I was brought up, and retire and get out of the rat race," O'Brien says. "Not put my feet up, but probably do some painting or make some music out there, and if I'm capable, write some more songs."

The actor and presenter also has two sons, Amelia's 20-year-old brother Josh, and Linus, 30, from his first marriage.

"1 love my children, I think they're wonderful," he smiles, adding living on the other side of the world wouldn't pose any problems.

"The world is so small -I've been away from my family and my siblings for 40 years now, and it hasn't made any difference. Once you get to 20, you build your own life anyway; being in New Zealand isn't going to make any difference.

"My duty, to some extent, was to see that they had a good schooling and a good x=background and morals and ethics, and were intelligent, vocal and articulate people standing on their own two feet, and able to have a conversation with anybody;"
At the moment he's busy with his various projects -a big supporter of Manchester Children's Hospital, he's currently raising money for The Chicken Shed Theatre Company.

The professional company - which began life 30 years ago in a chicken shed in north London - provides theatre workshops for 1,000 young people every week, and aims to integrate children with special needs into community theatre and music.
The Chicken Shed Album, out now, features songs from various shows, by supporters of the charity; including Sir Cliff Richard, Elaine Page, Gabrielle and Emma Bunton -and O'Brien himself.

Involved on and off for the past 10 years, O'Brien says Chicken Shed is "a damn good idea".

"The fact that the wee ones who do have difficulties are embraced. And dance and music helps to bring them out of their shells and extend perhaps beyond what many of us might have assumed was their lot.

"You can see the good they do, improving the lot of young children."

He chose to perform the song Looking For Love, because he liked its simplicity: "I picked a very simple blues song because I'm not a great singer.

"I hold a tune and hopefully I can perform it, but I'm not a great voice. Tom Jones is a great singer. And Pavarotti, he can sing. O'Brien is a minor voice."

He laughs: "And who would have thought I'd have been on a CD singing with Sir Cliff."
Playing Zebedee in The Magic Roundabout Movie, alongside Kylie, Robbie Williams, Jim Broadbent and Joanna Lumley, among others, was also great fun, he says.
"It was a bit daunting too because Zebedee didn't actually say anything originally: We heard the voice of Emma Thompson's dad saying, -Time for bed, said Zebedee', but we never actually heard the voices.

"But a friend of mine said, 'You've got a bossy voice Richard', which I thought was charming and rather revealing," he laughs. "I hope I got away with it."

He and Tom Baker have a duel, he says. "I'm Zebedee and he's bad Zebedee or ZeBadDee. He's my evil twin I think. I shouldn't give away the plot -we have to have a battle of wits."

The characters and storyline follow the UK version of the programme, rather than the French original he says, admitting Dougal was always his favourite.

"He was always snuflling around for sugar and getting into trouble, and he was always at the root of the problem somewhere or other: A disaster area really; always very good fun. Dylan the rabbit was good as well."

One project which has been put on hold is a sequel to Rocky Horror; which celebrated its 3Oth anniversary this year.

'"I've got to regroup this year: I just have a lot of personal pressure on me at the moment," he says. "It's doing my head in quite frankly; so I'm just going to put it on the back burner."
While he's still surprised and delighted at how long it has lasted, he believes changes need to be made.

"It's been going downhill for the last few years. I want to excite people with it again, not have it played like it's a cheap kind of, I don't know, downmarket sex show. Wit is what it needs."

He adds: "My feeling is it may well have peaked, although that's neither here nor there."

But he has no intention of complaining that his career has been overshadowed by his first success.

"I get cheesed off with people who say that. It's a ticket isn't it. It's a ticket nobody can ever take away from me. Even if it did all stop tomorrow, I was the writer of a show that lasted 30 years: That's not bad, is it?"

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The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996