Theatre review: The Bodyguard, The Playhouse, Edinburgh

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard
Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard
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There’s a weird dynamic in The Bodyguard, the musical based on the 1992 movie in which Whitney Houston played a pop star being shielded by Kevin Costner.

The Bodyguard, The Playhouse, Edinburgh ****

On one hand, there’s a great symbol of creativity and passion in the form of sisters Rachel and Nicki Marron. Here, they’re played by Alexandra Burke and Micha Richardson as bold, independent women, hampered by sibling rivalry but mainly enjoying a fulfilling life of artistic expression.

On the other hand are the men, two-dimensional and creepily controlling. They fall into three camps. First come the incompetent bodyguards, whose corner-cutting and self-satisfaction push us to see them as examples of failed manhood. Then comes Frank Farmer, the competent bodyguard, whose cool assessment of danger makes him the hero, despite his crippling emotional repression. If he has an inner life he keeps quiet about it, forcing actor Benoît Maréchal to walk a perilous line between enigmatic and cardboard cut-out. Finally comes the stalker, who also wants to protect Rachel, but in a bad way. Phil Atkinson plays him like he’s auditioning for the Chippendales, his rippling torso making the audience giggle – surely not what you want from a baddie.

Quite why the savvy Rachel should want to be associated with any of them is a mystery, but if you go along with the daft premise – which the capacity Playhouse audience enthusiastically does – you can revel in a show that more than justifies Rachel’s claim to star status, spectacular song-and-dance routines and all. And, boy, can they sing!

MARK FISHER

Until 20 July