Kinky Boots – Edinburgh Playhouse

Full of glitter and glam, this feel-good show will have you cheering for the underdogs and desperately looking up six inch, thigh-high boots on Ebay when you get home. 

Stomping onto the Edinburgh Playhouse stage, Kinky Boots is the story of Charlie Price attempting to save his late father’s bankrupt shoe factory by making striking platform boots for the nichest market he can find: drag queens. Armed with red leather and steel reinforced soles, Northampton lad Charlie navigates the world of business and masculinity with the help of professional crowd-pleaser, Lola, to rescue his livelihood and learn to love others for who they are.

The message of acceptance is at times saccharine, and the beats of the story relatively routine, but are conveyed with such genuine delight and glamour that still grabs at the heartstrings. For example, while Charlie and his company harmonise about how much they love shoes in the opening, I think it’s Kayi Ushe’s show-stopping rendition of ‘Hold Me in Your Heart’, that is the most beautiful thing in the world. Drenched in Lycra and charisma, he steals the scene at every opportunity, and performs a character who could easily be a parodied pantomime figure with such pathos and heart that he deserved every cheer and standing ovation. 

At his side, Joel Harper-Jackson thrives as Charlie, however quickly pales when left alone on stage. The energy of the supporting cast is dynamic and full of fun characters, which make the show stand out from others where the ensemble is a largely inactive mass that just echo lines and dance around the main cast. Here, everyone gets a chance in the spotlight, which emphasises the main theme of the show: don’t be part of a crowd, be yourself. 

The costume design of this show is undoubtedly incredible, modelled by a fantastic ensemble of drag queens that show off glitter and lace with confidence and style. Highlights in the choreography include the conclusion to the first act, in which the cast strut their stuff on treadmills, and a boxing match in the second act. The live music is upbeat, and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper strike a good balance between feel-good and sentimental.

Unfortunately, the story begins to fall apart by Act 2, with too many plot details left without a resolution as the show concludes with a glitzy, impressive catwalk number. Although not a fault with this particular production itself, as it is a revival and not an original script, but it feels unfortunate that so much of the heart and personality set up in the first act feels pushed aside in favour of flashy lights and quick resolutions.

Additionally, some of the language used also makes the show dated: I can’t help but wince at the catchphrase ‘ladies, gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds’, which undermines the show’s central message of not having to make a choice between either.

Nevertheless, Kinky Boots at the Playhouse is an enjoyable, proud, and unapologetic show that relishes in all of the audience’s whoops and cheers.  It’s a perfect, sexy pick-me-up to beat seasonal blues and encourage you to get out and take on the world, or the Christmas shopping crowds on Princes Street … just so long as you do it in ‘reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!!’

PHOTOS: Edinburgh Playhouse

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Zoe Robertson

Literature student at The University of Edinburgh and theatre maker. Interested in new writing and voices. @weregoth_ on Twitter

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