WHEN he was 10, Kevin Clifton watched a movie which would shape his life. Already a highly successful dancer in junior competitions, the young Kevin was fascinated by Strictly Ballroom and the lead character Scott Hastings, a maverick who broke all the rules.

“I said to my mum and dad at the time, they’re going to put this on stage at some time and I’m going to play Scott,” said Kevin. “Thirty years later it’s finally happening and I’m loving every minute of it.”

Kevin is preparing to bring a highly-acclaimed UK tour of Strictly Ballroom to The Lowry later this month in which, of course, he plays Scott, a fictional character which has had a major influence on his career.

Lancashire Telegraph: Kevin Clifton and Faye Brookes in Strictly Ballroom the Musical                                                    (Picture: Ellie Kurttz)

“I think I was directly influenced by Scott Hastings in the film,” said Kevin. “I would watch it over and over again and I became obsessed with it and this guy.

“I started doing things on the competition floor where I go a bit rogue sometimes and it would get a great response from those watching. But I’d get in trouble with my coaches and my mum and dad and they would say ‘you’re not going to win the competition if you keep dancing like that’.

“I’d just say, ‘listen to the audience’. I’d rather the audience was entertained than win the competition much to the annoyance of my teachers and my parents.”

The desire to entertain has stayed with Kevin throughout his career. In spite of winning a series of high profile competitions all around the globe, he retired from the world of competitive dancing aged just 25.

“I’d always thought that competition was going to be my life as it had been for my parents and my grandparents,” he said. “But I just wasn’t enjoying it any more although I couldn’t quite figure out why.

Also read: Craig Revel Horwood on capturing the real world of Strictly

“I thought that maybe I didn’t want to be a dancer after all so I stopped for a while.”

It was an invitation to be part of a new touring company - Burn the Floor - which, appropriately, reignited Kevin’s passion for dance.

“Suddenly I was part of a company performing for audiences and I was like ‘this is it, this is what I’m after’. It was what I’d been looking for.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Kevin Clifton and Faye Brookes in Strictly Ballroom the Musical  (Picture: Ellie Kurttz)

In 2013 Kevin joined the professional line-up on Strictly and with his celebrity partners finished runner-up for four years in a row. In 2018 he finally lifted the Glitterball Trophy with Stacey Dooley, now his partner and mum to their little girl Minnie who was born in January.

Kevin left Strictly in 2019 and has appeared in various musicals including Singing in the Rain, Rock of Ages and Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.

Now in his dream role, Strictly Ballroom the Musical has been touring the UK since last year and has reunited Kevin with his former Strictly Come Dancing sparring partner Craig Revel Horwood who is directing the musical.

“Craig has a very strong vision for the production,” said Kevin. “He wanted to play on the competitive nature of the world of dance.

“On the surface it seems very glamorous and lovely and wonderful but underneath it has got some really competitive people and it can get quite back stabby. He wanted to paint a picture of the dancers not as amazing creative artists enjoying dancing in their beautiful dresses but as power hungry, results driven characters prepared to step over each other to get on.”

From his experience are these characters which Kevin recognises?

“I’d say it is true to life,” he said. “When the film came out a lot of the ballroom competition world turned their noses up at it and said it was trying to make them look bad but even though I was just a kid I thought ‘this is pretty spot on’.”

So what has it been like working with Craig again?

“There are really two Craigs,” he laughed. “On camera you will work on a dance all week with your partner, perform it in front of him as a judge and he’ll say ‘that was rubbish - four’. Then off camera at the bar afterwards he’s a real sweetheart; he’s a really lovely guy.

“I did wonder which Craig we would get when I went into rehearsals. In the first dew days we’d do a scene and he’d go ‘that was rubbish, do it again’ so I knew which Craig we were getting!

“But he’s so creative and he encouraged a really open and creative rehearsal room which was great.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Kevin Clifton and Faye Brooks

In Strictly Ballroom the Musical, Kevin co-stars with former Coronation Street star Faye Brookes who plays Fran, the novice dancer who becomes Scott’s partner. She took over the role earlier this year from Maisie Smith.

“I couldn’t believe how it went from the start,” said Kevin. “Faye didn’t have a lot of time to get ready for the role. We were doing eight shows a week so she was working with the resident director and dance captain virtually on her own. We had a couple of run throughs and then she was in

“From that first show we found instant chemistry and it feels very alive on stage every night. I really love working with her.”

The one drawback of being part of the show is that Kevin is missing seeing daughter Minnie.

“She’s so amazing,” he said. “Stacey and I are completely obsessed with Minnie. Sometimes they come around with me on tour so that is nice; it just means I’m a little bit more knackered when they are with me. I miss them so much when they are not on tour but I suppose I do get eight hours of sleep.

“Every time I don’t spend a few days with them and then see Minnie it’s like she’s grown so much. I feel like I’ll go home one day and find out she’s driving now.”

Kevin admits that it is a special time in his life.

“I’m playing the role I’ve always wanted to play, we’ve got this amazing baby daughter and I feel really grateful to have done everything I’ve got to do. I just hope it’s not downhill from now on,” he laughed.

Strictly Ballroom the Musical, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Monday, June 26 to Saturday, July 1. Details from www.thelowry.com