Richard O’ Briens’s “Rocky Horror Show” is at The Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh this week (Monday 28th October to Saturday 2nd November) as part of its “World Tour 2019” and, as always, it is the audience as much as the cast that make this show what it is – a hit with generations of fans world-wide.
“Rocky Horror Show” is always an “odd” production in every sense of the word, but it, perhaps more than many other shows can be a hit or a miss depending on who is playing some of the lead characters. Here for the most part it is a hit and Duncan James in the lead role of Frank-N-Furter has pretty much got this one right with his performance of everybody’s favourite alien transvestite. Sometimes Frank-N-Furter is portrayed as gay and very outdated camp and that for me is always a mistake as the character is neither, but here Duncan James gives an at times macho strutting hero/villain who can be when he wants to be a little camp, but above all takes his pleasures wherever he finds them, and often with evil intent in his grander plans. Throughout this show, there is always that feeling with Duncan’s “Frank” that he will snap at any minute into uncontrollable rage if he does not get his own way.
Of course, Duncan James also needs to be able to get these songs just right and his performances of "Sweet Transvestite" and “Rose Tint My World” are as good as any I have seen, and his homage to “Fay Wray” is touching.
There are of course so many other great song here, "Science Fiction/Double Feature", and I think I have seen every one of those sci-fi B movies mentioned in it, and one of my favourites always being "Over at the Frankenstein Place". Of course, having songs like “The Time Warp”, "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" and "I'm Going Home" also in the show has played a big part in the never ending success of “Rocky Horror Show”. The re-inclusion in recent revamps of the show of “Once in A While” seems always to sit oddly at times in the context of the whole show, but it perhaps that is because we only got to hear it given its rightful place here after being omitted for many years.
What of our other cast members though? Well, James Darch and Joanne Clifton are working well together as Brad and Janet, and Kristian Lavercombe has, as always made “Riff Raff” his very own individual creation. Laura Harrison (Magenta), Miracle Chance (Columbia), Eddie/Dr Scott (Ross Chisari)and Callum Evans (Rocky) complete, for the most part in style, our main cast members. Our narrator is Philip Franks and although he is very good with some of the obviously now predictable audience responses, and the non-predictable ones, I always prefer the concept of our narrator not walking around the set, but having a fixed point to tell his story from.
Much as I love this show though, I am not a fan of some of the re-vamps of recent years, and the set looks at times far too much like one you would expect in “Rocky Horror Pantomime”.
The one thing that there is no getting away from though in this show is that it is now nearly 50 years old (original first production 1973). Even the film version, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is from 1975. This show is now existing appropriately in its very own “Time Warp”, and although the narrator can make his lines contemporary, this show will never survive an update to modern “politically correct” ideologies.
“The Rocky Horror Show” is certainly not a child of movements like “No Means No” and “#MeToo” and could probably never survive the transition to this politically correct modern world. This does of course give an odd dimension to what some members of the audience shout out at our cast, and Janet in particular.
Review by Tom King