Queen of shows rocks Edinburgh

Queen of shows rocks Edinburgh
Queen of shows rocks Edinburgh

Can there ever have been a show in which the cast has a better time than they do in We Will Rock You? Sometimes that can be a bad sign. But in the production of the Queen jukebox musical which has now arrived in Edinburgh for the festive season, it is simply a reflection of the fact that they have a licence to be as outrageous, as out-front, as big as possible, and they are loving it.

Queen were never exactly a restrained chamber concert themselves. The company here, led by a young Australian called Michael Falzon with a panache of which Freddie Mercury himself would have approved, simply let rip. A  packed Playhouse loved every gaudy, extravagant, spectacular second of it and so did I.

Say what you like about Ben Elton’s preposterous futuristic fantasy (and it was rubbished up and down London’s Tottenham Court Road when it first opened.)  It gets a lot of great Queen numbers in, it has tremendous fun with rock icons of the past (and indeed present, for some work has been done to freshen up the topical references of what is, after all, a seven year old show) and they have even given Scaramouche – the female lead - a pair of knickers with a Saltire on just to please the local crowd.

And anyway, who’s to say that Elton’s basic premise, that 300 years hence, an avaricious software company will have taken over all music and turned rock and roll into a forgotten legend is so far-fetched.

Scaramouche, played here with a brilliant world-weariness by Sarah French-Ellis, is one of the things that stops the show being simply an indulgence. Stroppy, difficult and nobody’s fool, she is the one that ends up with the big guitar solo which, in rock’n’roll circles, is about as subversive as you can get.

Good as the young leads are though, it is Brenda Edwards as the Killer Queen head of the evil Globesoft corporation which now controls all the world’s music with its computers,  who gives the biggest performance of all, live and on huge video screens.

There are some snide remarks in the script about the noxious impact of The X Factor on music, a competition in which Edwards only reached the semi finals  four years ago. Now she has truly left Simon Cowell and his ilk in her dust.

Not every performance will get the added bonus of Brian May and Roger Taylor turning up to play live in the final encore of Bohemian Rhapsody as they did here. But I suspect audiences will have a high old time of it anyway. And that, really, is the point.

We Will Rock You, Edinburgh Playhouse until January 9, 2010; box office 0844 847 1660

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