‘The Rocky Horror Show’ (Edinburgh King’s Theatre) | Review By Sam Eastop

As I took my seat in an ocean of black dresses, stockings, and sparkly outfits, I was ready to watch the madness of the Rocky Horror Show unfold for the first time. Having only ever watched the film until this point, I had heard fantastic things about the live show and was feeling incredibly excited for what the show at the Edinburgh King’s had in store. What awaited was an evening of incredible fun, insane audience participation and dancing that I’ll never forget.  

An innocent couple in the form of Brad & Janet, fresh off a friend’s wedding and getting engaged themselves, take shelter in a dark castle on a stormy night intending to use the phone to call for help. Once inside however, their lives get flipped upside down when they meet their fantastical host and his creepy band of servants, who live bizarre, otherworldly lives that help release Brad and Janet from their world of conformity.  

Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter.

Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter is fabulous. He embraces every second of stage time and entirely engulfs this iconic character. His personality oozes from every heeled-step and makes the audience completely give themselves over to him. When singing, Webb’s voice is thoroughly impressive, adding incredible rock styles while also keeping immense amounts of character and fun in his voice. His speaking voice, however, is all over the place. The accent is incredibly difficult to pin as it changes from sounding English, to southern American, to Welsh and then glimpses of Scottish (I would know). This may throw some viewers off but given that Frank N Furter is not of this world, and Webb could be making the choice of a confusing accent to match the other purposefully cheap things like the set design, it comes off to me as a genius choice that makes Webb’s interpretation very clever and stands out from the others before him.  

The multi-talented Ore Oduba as Brad is a breath of fresh air and a joy to watch. His uptight, straight-arrow character is admirable at first, before the audience sees him embrace more and more things that he would normally dismiss out of hand. Oduba captures the perfect beats of Brad letting go and become something more and it is fantastic to be a part of. Considering Oduba has less experience than the rest of this cast, as he is usually busy presenting and broadcasting, he really manages to hold his own among a cast of veterans.  

Lauren Ingram as Columbia, Suzie McAdam as Magenta, Hayley Flaherty as Janet, Ore Oduba as Brad and Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff. (Left to Right).

Hayley Flaherty as Janet is purely brilliant. She plays the innocent character perfectly, while also nailing the moment when Janet finally gives into temptation and outwardly admits she wants Rocky to touch-a touch-a touch her. Considering the entire auditorium screams “Slut” at her at any given opportunity, Hayley manages to make everyone still adore her and totally understand every decision she makes. With an incredible voice and brilliant presence in the chorus dance moments, Flaherty really is a standout in this production.  

Philip Franks as the Narrator was perfection. His ad libs and jokes were truly gut-wrenchingly funny. Earning applause from his asides alone and soaking up every single audience interaction, he takes joy in every word and moment, and its brilliant to be a part of. Franks manages to make the audience feel like part of the show and truly includes them while telling everyone the story they already know, somehow making it still feel new and exciting.  

Joe Allen as Eddie/Dr Scott was excellent, Eddie has tragically far too little stage time, but what little time he had Allen totally ate up while singing hot patootie and being incredibly cool. His Dr Scott is hilarious and a very fun change of pace as he manages to bring a different flavour of humour and weirdness to a stage already filled with great bizarre comedy.  

Lauren Ingram as Columbia was fun and endearing, making us pitty a character who fell in love with a man who only uses her, while also make us laugh hysterically when having an acid trip. Kristian Lavercombe is exceptional as Riff Raff. Having over 1800 performances of Rocky Horror under his belt, it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing. Leading the entire building into Time Warp and singing or speaking some of the most iconic lines ever seemed like child’s play to Lavercombe, who probably knows the character, better than O’Brien himself at this point. Suzie McAdam as the Usherette/Magenta is great. McAdam has the towering job of leading thousands of adoring fans into and out of this entire experience as the Usherette, but she does it beautifully with her soft and melancholic voice, while on the other hand making Magenta crazy, powerful and intimidating. Ben Westhead as Rocky is more than just some eye-candy with muscles. His voice and stage presence while singing about having a bad time, something we can all relate to, was surprisingly powerful, making everyone sympathise for him and his situation.  

The ensemble, or Phantoms, in this production were spot on. All of them totally capturing that creepy-yet-having-insane-amounts-of-fun kinda attitude that is intoxicating that you find yourself acting and feeling the exact same. The band were also exceptional, having them positioned up the back of the stage means you get to appreciate a shredding guitar, or rocky drums.  

Hugh Durrant’s set design is perfect. It looks kooky and cheap, but that’s the point. The “castle” that Brad & Janet travel to is a 7-foot-tall board but still weirdly looks correct and like it towers behind the performers on stage. Nick Richings’ lighting design was brilliant, casting beams of light at the audience, so bright that it blinds them momentarily while a hurried set change happens on stage. Or placing actors in beams of white bright light, indicating very clearly that the characters are trapped in alien’s beams, unable to move. Christopher Luscombe’s direction allows the actors to get the most out of the experience that is Rocky Horror. Whether that’s letting the Narrator add in anything he likes (some of the ad libs were so funny and extensive it felt like stand up, in a good way) or lingering ever so slightly on Brad as he…ahem…enjoys some company with Frank N Furter, the cast always feel like they can give their absolute all to every comic or emotional beat, and they all hit home.  

This production was spectacular. Probably one of the best nights in a Theatre I’ve ever had. No other show can evoke a reaction or response from audiences or feel like such an event for die hard fans than Rocky Horror. But when it’s done this well? Well, some other shows may be more emotionally poignant or mature, but by God you’ll have more fun seeing Rocky Horror. It may be the only show in which a main cast member can break character entirely to burst out laughing and the whole audience will think the show better for it. An amazing evening at the theatre that manages not to feel like theatre at all. By the time the Usherette pulls the curtain closed for the evening you’ll wish you could do the time warp again. Just one more time.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get your tickets for ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ at Edinburgh King’s Theatre here:

https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/the-rocky-horror-show

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