It’s astounding that I have never seen the ‘Rocky Horror Show’. I have of course seen the iconic 1975 film starring Tim Curry and the show’s creator Richard O’Brien. And obviously who is not familiar with the legendary soundtrack with hits such as ‘The Time Warp’ and ‘Sweet Transvestite’. This Halloween the tour has its final stop at the Edinburgh Playhouse, and I was one of the lucky ones to be invited for a scream of a time at the press evening.
The story follows young lovers, Brad and Janet. Their car breaks down outside a rather spooky looking castle where they come across a certain Dr Frank N Furter. From then on in they find themselves in one hell of a strange encounter.
Duncan James serves us a sexy, gender fluid and sublime Dr. Frank N Furter. His portrayal is not a mimic of Tim Curry’s untouchable portrayal, Duncan brings a different spin to the character which is as equally as entertaining and even more cheeky. His energy is fantastic and vocals are outstanding. He has the audience in the palm of his hands as soon as he steps onstage to his show stopping performance of ‘Sweet Transvestite’. As much as there is raunchy humor delivered perfectly by Duncan, there is also a great vulnerability he portrays especially in the number ‘I’m going home’. This is a well-rounded portrayal which is a treat to watch.
Joanne Clifton gives us a dorky and quirky portrayal as Janet. The cute nature and naivety that Joanne gives Janet almost makes the audience feel bad for screaming slut during dialogue intervals. Joanne’s powerhouse vocals are in a league of their own, she is quite rightfully one of the west end’s rising stars. She also doesn’t miss a beat with her comic timing, some of the hilarity is mainly due to the pure innocence Joanne radiates into Janet. James Darch as Brad supplies the audience charm and great vocals. At one point I found myself thinking that he looked and even sounded like Buddy Holly, of course subtracting the sexual context. James gave us an enjoyable performance.
Philip Franks does not miss a beat and no screaming audience member is too much for him as the narrator. His comic timing and delivery is simply staggering, how he manages to answer the bloody shocking heckles with hilarious comeback after comeback is beyond me. Philip’s narrator is a highlight of this musical, with his seamlessly funny audience interaction.
It’s doubtful that Columbia has ever been portrayed with more energy than Miracle Chance gives her. Miracle does not drop stamina once during her performance. Her dedication to delivering the choreography with such drive and pushing her strong vocals is admirable. Miracle’s cookie portrayal lifts this character and makes Columbia even more of an audience favourite. Ross Chisari gives us rock n roll vocals as Eddie. We then also later see him portray Dr. Scott. His latter portrayal is definitely the weakest within this very talented cast, there is still very close to the bone humour but you can’t help but feel underwhelmed compared to the rest of the performances on stage.
Callum Evans as Rocky supplies the audience an eye popping six pack, devilish charm, superb body flexibility and fantastic vocals. This character could easily be one note, unenergized and disengaging for the audience however Callum manages to deliver a very entertaining version of rocky.
Laura Harrison as Usherette and Magenta supplies two completely different portrayals so convincingly. As Usherette she supplies stunning vocals in ‘Science Fiction Double Feature’. And when Laura transforms into Magenta she is unrecognizable, unless you had a programme you wouldn’t know that it was the same actress who opened as the Usherette. Her dark and sexy portrayal of Magenta is very enjoyable to watch, especially with even richer vocals than previously seen with the Usherette.
Kristian Lavercombe is the best Riff Raff since Richard O’Brien, he was simply born to play the hunchbacked rock n roll servant. Kristian has been playing this role for years, and quite rightfully so, he embodies Riff Raff perfectly and nails the character’s complexity. Also his vocals in ‘Time Warp’ lift the song, Kristian also throws a ton of characterisation into the performance with his very specific accent and complicated riffs. Kristian’s portrayal of Riff Raff is a performance that every Rocky Horror fan has to see.
Finally we have our phantoms who act as an ensemble, they lift the performance with great energy in the choreography and powerful back-in vocals for some of the musical numbers. The phantoms are as follows; Reece Budin, Shelby Farmer, Katie Monks, Jake Small, Andrew Ahern (swing/resident choreographer) and Maddie Hope Coelho (swing/dance captain).
Christopher Luscombe has been directing Rocky Horror since 2006. His UK touring production has captured the hearts of thousands, if not millions of people who are obsessed with this cult musical. It is clear that within the last thirteen years there has been very little need for change of direction as the text speaks for itself and Christopher’s direction is one which could be argued as clearer, plus more sound than that of Jim Sharman’s in the original 1975 film. Christopher’s main success here is letting the audience have much interaction as possible, this is clearly a musical for the fans and is probably one of the most accessible on tour currently in the UK. This musical was of course written by the legendary Richard O’Brien. His outlandish scope on gender norms and taboo subjects of the 1970s you think would be looking pretty tired by 2019, but it’s quite the opposite. This musical’s themes and issues still stand as relevant in the 21st century and are eaten up by the packed theatres. This story no doubt has iconic status, but that does not mean that we can forgive the notorious, divisive rushed and rather anticlimactic ending. However, with Christopher’s direction, this ending seems tidier and less unfulfilling, which lets the audience feel more at ease that their great evening isn’t going to be spoiled. Nathan M. Wright’s high energy and enjoyable Choreography slips well into scenes, fits very well with the musical numbers and does not take away from Christopher’s direction.
Sue Blane’s costume (as little as there is of it) is stunning, the corsets, heels, thongs, space outfits and all the outrageous costumes that come with this musical are designed and clearly made to a high standard. The costume also goes well with Hugh Durrant’s set design, with gothic hints and contemporary styles this design works for this musical. As cheap as some of the set looks it’s supposed to look that way, as many people describe Rocky Horror as the Halloween pantomime, we definitely get that vibe in the set. The film reel which runs underneith the proscenium arch is very apt for this musical which has been dipped in cinematic history. Nick Richings’ lighting design is tremendous, the vast amount of lights on the stage alone is enough to dazzle the audience, how affective and efficiently they are used for each scene just simply blows their mind.
Overall, the UK tour of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ delivers a stupendous production, bringing relevant themes and issues to light in a raunchy outrageous way. As someone who had never experienced this cult gathering before, I was simply staggered at how amazing a theatre experience this is. If you want to see an astoundingly fun show then ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is a theatre experience like no other and you will be screaming for more by the end of the finale.
Written by Lewis C. Baird
Tickets are available for Rocky Horror at the Edinburgh Playhouse below: