Created by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Stephen Webb
On a fittingly miserably dreich evening in Edinburgh, there’s a light on at the Playhouse for those poor desperate souls looking to spread a little warmth to their bones, their cheeks, and to, well, that’s entirely your business. Continuing to produce an eternally touring showcase which could rival Manilow, Cher, and the Old Testament – the Rocky Horror Picture Show spreads its legs at the venue this week, paraded by decorated fans and virginal newcomers alike.
The masterful pastiche to the schlock and kitschy B-movies of their youth, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show basks itself in the lavish eccentricities and high-quality expectations audiences have come to expect from the past fifty years. Yup – The Rocky Horror Picture Show turns fifty, and it’s never looked better in stockings and full lips.
At the heart of it all, this science-fiction clash of comedy and music is a love story for the ages – as Brad and Janet, newly engaged and their hearts filled with promise and fluffy kittens, find themselves lost in the darkness of a storm, trekking to the nearby castle in a desperate hope of a phone. What they stumble upon rates itself a touch more than the PG life they have been living: decadence, sex, science experiments, leather, and more sex. All at the hands (and heels) of the master of this house, Dr Frank-N-Furter, who desires nothing more than to see the uptight pair relax and live a little.
Haley Flaherty’s saccharine affinity being a goodie two-shoes as the initially reserved Janet matches the good-American boy morals of Richard Meek’s Brad. Oh, how far the pair will fall for the depraved enjoyment of the show, Flaherty, in particular, transitioning fabulously into the self-assured and autonomous powerhouse during Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me. They’re the perfect initial offset to the madness of the castle’s servants Riff Raff, the role O’Brien themselves took, and Magenta.
With over 2000 performances, Kristian Lavercombe has every right to claim the matted hair and arched back from O’Brien’s legacy – delivering splendidly crystal vocal performances, a sinister spidery physicality. And speaking of vocals, McAdam’s Magenta has an undeniable presence and spectacular range in both her roles as the villainous Magenta and our Usherette for this evening – guiding us in and out of the show. With Lavercombe and a gaggle of ensemble performers, the pair deliver the sparkling crowd-pleaser, Time Warp. Following this famous hit, down from the heavens descends, not an angel, but someone just as ethereally rapture-inducing.
They’re just a Sweet Transvestite from Transylvania, but Frank, the role championed by Tim Curry in both the original West End show and cinematic adaptation, arrives to an eruption from the audience – Stephen Webb continuing to grace the role following the production’s previous stint in Edinburgh. Bringing the crowd to their feet, and indeed the sole of Webb’s heels, Webb works with the entire cast, though especially with the wonderfully adept Darcy Finden’s Columbia, who achieves as much beauty and pain from the role as they do chaos and grasp of Nathan M Wright’s choreography. And against Ben Westhead’s charming Rocky, Webb brings a stamp of their own to the androgynous, though undoubtedly masculine Doctor – serving an additional dimension with Frank’s somewhat redemptive solo piece I’m Going Home, performed with anguish and sincerity.
A ravenously dashing doctor, a hunchbacked scuttling servant, and a bouncing, glittering ex-lover, any of the cast for O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show could rightly claim the adoration and lustful desires of any in the audience. But there’s something about the crushed blue velvet of the Narrator. Something within that equally matching suave allure in Philip Frank’s voice sets the role apart. Amidst the dances and vocals, and the caution thrown to the winds of desire – Frank brings a touch of class and sophistication to the madness as they stand, commenting upon the show, and encouraging the now legendary shrieks and interaction from the audience.
Topical, tartan-flavoured, and as up-to-date as the best stand-ups, the addition of barbs of venom thrown towards… well, that would be spoiling. Theatre etiquette is a defiant beast, but for the uninitiated for this Science Fiction/Double Feature, be forewarned, the gloves are off.
High above it all, confined to the towering film-stripped design of Hugh Durrant’s set, are the five-piece live band, who perform such a tight rendition of the award-winning and scintillating soundtrack that they almost go unnoticed by many in the audience – their world-building through score and sound so pristine, they become as ingrained within the flurry of hormones and emotions just as keenly as the performers on stage in their gooey gowns and fishnet dreams.
Long may this rebellious counter-culture musical comedy continue to stir something in audiences for the next fifty years. For the uninitiated, Rocky Horror Picture Show carries with it a vintage of long theatrical prestige, one which may initially confuse and put off, but evaporates quickly into the run. This is a piece of musical theatre history to be revelled and enjoyed, the sort of show you have to see this at least once in your time on this earth. Slap on your best gear, dig out the smoky eyeliner, and get ready to take a jump to the left…
You Have To See This
Rocky Horror Picture Show runs at The Playhouse until March 18th. Monday – Thursday at 20.00pm. Friday and Saturday at 17.30pm and 20.30pm.
Running Time – Two hours including interval. Suitable for ages 12+
Tickets begin from £13.o0. Concessions are available, and tickets may be obtained here.
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