Monday, 17 December 2018

Theatre Review: Kinky Boots, UK Tour, Edinburgh Playhouse.*


I've never really been the kind of person who enjoys going to the cinema. I don't have the patience for it, I get so distracted and I hate how time seems to slow down. I've been to see three films in the cinema in the last five years. It's not for me. What I do love, however, is live theatre. It makes my heart swell to watch people perform, and if there is singing involved there's absolutely zero chance I'll make it out of a theatre without crying. So when an email dropped into my inbox inviting me to go watch the touring production of Kinky Boots at the Edinburgh Playhouse, I was strutting my way into town without a second of hesitation.

All photography is copyright of Kinky Boots UK

I have to admit that, despite having heard the name, I was completely unaware of the storyline of Kinky Boots. Based on a 2005 film, this musical tells the story of Charlie Price. Charlie has moved from his home in Northampton to live in London with his fiance Nicola, despite his father hoping he'd take over production at their Price & Son shoe factory. But when his father dies, Charlie feels driven by loyalty to run the factory. Price & Son manufactures good quality but unfashionable shoes, and demand is dropping. The factory is in dire straights and on the brink of collapse when Charlie meets Lola, a drag queen, and their unlikely friendship leads to a change of direction within the factory as she comes on board to help design sexy footwear for men. As the two discover they have more in common than Charlie first thought, he finds his whole approach to life shifting, and discovers how to truly be himself.



The show runs for two and a half hours, and I could easily have sat and watched another two hours afterwards. There's a really enjoyable soundtrack, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a smart, sassy narrative provided by Harvey Fierstein's book. With a consistently funny script, well-rounded and believable characters, and some cracking vocal performances, this was the perfect winter warmer that was both moving and very uplifting.


The stand-out star for me was, of course, Lola. The character is the heart and soul of the show and was exquisitely played by Callum Francis (from the date of publishing, the role is being filled by Kayi Ushe, who I've heard is remarkable too!). Callum brings such charisma to the already bold character, and his vocals are absolute perfection. But my favourite part of his performance was the vulnerability he managed to bring when opening up as 'Simon', on Not My Father's Son. I can't imagine it's very easy to pack such an emotional punch in between slinging pure, razor-sharp, wit around and strutting your stuff with the rest of the Angels, but he absolutely nailed the change in tone.


While we're on the subject, I just need to take five minutes to give a virtual standing ovation to the Angels. I'm genuinely still in awe at how they managed to (bravely) mix six-inch heels and actual gymnastics. They really turned this from standard musical theatre to a full-blown showstopper, and the choreography is incredibly impressive and slick throughout.


I thought that overall, the casting was perfect. The chemistry between Joel Harper-Jackson (as Charlie) and Francis was great, and they really seemed to bounce off each other. Harper-Jackson made an at times selfish character sympathetic and human, ensuring he remained likeable even at his low points. Paula Lane, who you might recognise from playing Kylie Platt on Coronation Street) brought the comic relief as factory girl Lauren, bringing a touch of slapstick to proceedings. Demitri Lampra as Don is the antithesis of Lola, but he is no pantomime villain. In fact, all of the supporting cast are given opportunities to shine, and they provide more than a few of the laugh-out-loud moments.


This is a really heartwarming and hilarious show. I found myself absolutely entranced by it, staring at the stage with my face trapped in a perpetual grin. The dialogue is whip-smart and tongue-in-cheek, always pushing the boundaries but never stepping over into crude or vulgar territory. I've never laughed so openly or so often in any performance before (including in some of the actual comedy shows I've paid to see... naming no names!). I genuinely have never had so much fun during a show before, and the older man sitting next to me said the same thing during the interval. 

The staging was fantastic - particularly in a boxing match scene (In This Corner) and with the use of conveyor belts in Everybody Say Yeah. As I've mentioned, the choreography is visually stunning and totally enthralling, while the music itself is catchy and varied. The set design is incorporated into almost every song, and moves effortlessly between Northampton factory to London nightclub. Every part of this show feels well put-together, and I feel bad that it has taken me so long to have let Lola into my life.


This is not an unprecedented storyline - that you have to follow your own path in life and that only by being yourself will you find happiness. However, it is delivered in the most dynamic, energetic and life-affirming way that I can't imagine anyone can resist the spirit and message of this show. I loved every minute.

Kinky Boots is on at the Edinburgh Playhouse until January 5th, before touring the country throughout 2019. Click here to buy tickets for the Edinburgh shows, or click here to see when it will be near you!
*Tickets to this show were gifted to me in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own. All photography is copyright of Kinky Boots UK.
Share:

No comments

Post a Comment

© Adventure & Anxiety | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Designed by pipdig