ON Tuesday February 14 the Festival Theatre, in Edinburgh, was packed to the rafters with an audience desperate to see the opening night of the 20th anniversary production of Rent, the Tony award winning musical, writes Kerry Black.

This tragic rock opera, by Jonathan Larson, is based on La Boheme, moving the action from the tubercular garrets of Paris to the crumbling lofts of New York in the 1990s when AIDS and drugs were rampant.

In an era when gay couples can now marry and have equal rights, it is hard to remember how only 20 years ago, they were so persecuted, being attacked in the street and blamed for the AIDS crisis.

The atmospheric set and lighting resembled scaffolding, allowing the cast to spring from all directions. If you are looking for a show with rows of sequinned, high kicking chorus girls, Rent will not be for you. However, it is one of the most emotional, heartbreaking, thought provoking yet truly funny shows you will ever see, with numbers ranging from Seasons of Love to Tango:Maureen.

Many touring shows feel duty bound to include a reality TV contestant, many of whom can barely sing. In contrast, Rent features X Factor graduate, Lucie Jones as Maureen, the lesbian performance artiste. I previously saw her as Cosette in Les Mis in London and knew she was an amazing singer but this show gives her the chance to display her hilarious comedic skills too!

The entire cast is at the top of their game, showing off a whole range of vocal talents and dancing, from the camp tragedy of Angel (Harrison Clark) to the drug addled decline of Mimi (Philippa Stefani), it is hard to single out one performer from the entire ensemble cast of fifteen players, but for me Ross Hunter (ex Book of Mormon) as Roger Davis just had the edge.

The storyline follows a band of friends who have lived together rent free in a loft, until their friend decides to revert to his yuppie roots and demand rent from them. Tragically Jonathan Larson, the writer, died suddenly on the evening of the final dress rehearsal missing out on the adulation and awards which followed.

The best thing about Edinburgh is the diversity of shows available. While Rent and A Judgement In Stone, at the King’s, appear very different, they both show the desperate measures which people can be driven too due to being misunderstood and bullied.

Rent has a cult following and the mainly young audience were clapping at cheering as thought they were at a rock concert! Rent is at the Festival Theatre until Saturday February 18, tickets are available from £20.50 by calling 0131 529 6000.