The Playhouse, Edinburgh
£14.90 – £47.90
30 Mar – 2 April
Stagecraft: Libretto : Performance
The ever charismatic Richard O’Brien’s ‘Rocky Horror Show’ has been going strong for over 40 years and shows no signs of stopping, hurrah! As with all cult classics, every new generation becomes enthralled with ‘Rocky’ and, once in love with this bizarre, hilarious and absurdly sexy show, they will remain forever smitten.
The ‘Rocky’ concept and story was an original idea of O’Brien’s, who then partnered up with Richard Hartley to write the score and their love-child-show was born in 1973, debuting at the Royal Court Theatre in London (and still voted their most favourite production of all time). The two Richards have now been artistic partners for over 40 years.
The story focuses on the dramatic change of two of main characters: sweet, demure, innocent Janet Weiss (brilliantly brought to life by Diana Vickers of ‘X Factor’ fame with a voice as pure as Janet’s character is before she meets Frankenfurter, delivered hilariously by Liam Tamne) and her super-traditional, all-American good guy and fiancé, Brad Majors (played to geeky perfection by Ben Freeman of ‘Emmerdale’ fame). What starts out as a simple road trip on a stormy night ends up being both their undoing and their sensual awakening, when fate twists and their car breaks down and they are forced to seek help at a spooky mansion.
There, a sinister yet hilarious ensemble of characters deconstruct all their physical and mental barriers, one by one, and they are given over entirely to the pleasures of the flesh but, more importantly, shown their own true natures and their desire for hedonistic life- something they do their best to deny, both to themselves and others throughout this revealing dark night, in which they also learn that those who appear to be the obvious baddies or victims may not be entirely what they seem and human (or even extraterrestrial) nature is never as simple as we would like to believe.
As for the music, ‘Rocky’ has, indisputably, one of the strongest scores in the world of musical theatre, with so many stand out songs that it would be hard to name them all but of course in include the intro song, a homage to the exciting early days of cinema, ‘Science fiction double feature’ (done just right by the willowy Sophie Linder-Lee, who also plays Columbia), ‘Touch-a touch-a touch me’, the sad ditties ‘Fanfare/Don’t dream it’ and ‘I’m going home’ and need I mention the ‘Time warp’, which had the entire audience on their feet emulating all the moves. There are so very many musicals out there that overdo the song:spoken word ratio and end up with truly insipid scores (you know the ones: every song sounds like someone has been asked to sing us through every little move they make…thank you but we don’t need to hear how ‘I am now making a cup of tee-eeee-heea’…dammit, Janet, just keep the good songs and lose the ones that act as fillers when there should be conversation instead!). The band high above the stage played furiously and to great effect, delivering faithful renditions of the much loved tunes that we’ve come to love in the film.
The set was excellent although I must confess that the songs, performances and costumes were just so good, and the story so fast-paced, that it was often easy to forget to actually look at the set in great detail. The upright bed in the ‘slap & tickle’ scenes with Brad, Janet and Frankenfurter was particularly effective (cue howls of laughter at the overactive tongue of FF) and the round room where the piece de resistance, the muscle-bound Rocky, is created, really helped set the scene.
All the main actors were given their moment in the sun, including a hilarious scene of Columbia carried away by her desire and writhing on a bench, as well as Magenta (Kay Murphy- she may be small but she’s a little dynamo and thankfully with a less strident voice than the film actress) performing an almost slapstick routine. Riff Raff was played by a very young looking actor, Kristian Lavercombe, although you would never guess as he was so confident, so well made-up and self-assured that he gave Richard O’Brien himself a real run for his money. The British stalwart Norman Pace played the Narrator with verve and gusto and gave the heckling audience every bit as good as he got (to be fair, the audience were actually quite funny where usually heckling can just be very, very annoying, so he had something good to bounce off). Dominic Andersen as Rocky was simply delicious in his tiny, animal-print briefs (and don’t let any jealous boyfriends tell you otherwise) and the four actors who played the phantoms put in solid performances. Last, but NEVER least, the role of Frankenfurter: it was pretty hard to even imagine anyone in it but the divine Tim Curry, with his mobile face and passionate voice but I’m happy to report that Liam Tamne OWNS it and has the audience eating out of his hand the whole way through.
All in all, this is probably one of the best shows you will see live- it has many ridiculous, laugh out loud moments, it is utterly raunchy in a naughty way (why is it that even the men look so darned hot in a basque and suspenders?), it is creepy and weird and just downright odd yet it leaves the viewer with much to think about- who we are, who society says we should be, the repression that we are subject to on a daily basis and the hypocrisy of the ‘good living’ people who would judge others for giving in to their primal instincts.
So good I might even pay to see it again- hats off to director Christopher Luscombe and all the cast and crew for producing something that is easily on a par with the motion picture- those are some seriously big boots to fill and you filled them perfectly.
Reviewer : Maya Moreno