Rocky Horror Picture Show (2023), Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Rocky Horror Picture Show - Ben Westhead (Rocky) and Stephen Webb (Frank-N-Furter)
Show details
Christopher Luscombe (director), Richard O'Brien (writer)
Haley Flaherty (Janet), Richard Meek (Brad), Joe Allen (Eddie/Dr. Scott), Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff), Suzie McAdam (Usherette/Magenta), Ben Westhead (Rocky), Stephen Webb (Frank), Philip Frank (Narrator), Darcy Finden (Columbia)
Running time

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, well, that’s entirely your business. 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.

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 mercy) 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 Bard. Oh, how far the pair will fall for the depraved enjoyment of the show, Flaherty transitioning fabulously into the self-assured autonomous powerhouse during Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me. 

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.

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.

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 and injection of original and topical commentary sets the role apart.

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.

13th March - 18th March, Monday - Thursday 20.00 pm, Friday and Saturday - 17.30pm and 20.30pm, Ages 12+

Tickets from £13.00
The Rocky Horror Show Tickets | Edinburgh Playhouse in Edinburgh | ATG Tickets

Photo Credit: Rocky Horror Picture Show