Orpheus in the Record Shop

Leeds Playhouse/BBC Four Lights Up

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Testament Credit: BBC / Leeds Playhouse & Opera North / Sodium Films
Testament Credit: BBC / Leeds Playhouse & Opera North / Sodium Films
Testament Credit: BBC / Leeds Playhouse & Opera North / Sodium Films

Orpheus in the Record Shop forms part of the BBC Lights Up season on BBC Four and iPlayer. Ostensibly, it is a relatively run-of-the-mill monologue delivered by its writer, Testament, and telling the tale of a Leeds-based latter-day version of the Greek mythical character.

However, the production is turned into something quite different thanks to a staging that features inter-alia beat-boxing, soul singing, rap and the prodigious musical talents of members drawn from the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North.

This makes a show that was originally directed and designed on stage by Aletta Collins an audio delight that constantly surprises.

The central character might have been created by Nick Hornby. Portentously named Orpheus, he is a mixed-race record shop owner whose main strength lies in feeling sorry for himself.

One could argue that he has good reason, since his business should have been consigned to the dustbin of history years back, his former girlfriend has decamped to Italy and his father has been a depressive since becoming a widower when young Orpheus was six.

A relatively predictable plot has some intriguing time-bombs dropped in, first when a middle-aged woman wheels in a shopping trolley containing some vintage discs and then after an old friend / customer offers his complete vinyl collection for £2,000 that our man will need to borrow.

At the same time as relating his story in speech and song, Testament demonstrates a nice line in poetic imagery, particularly while drawing a portrait of life in a Northern town today.

Ultimately, it is the people rather than the plot that are the main attractions in this film. Testament is a multi-talented performer, while the musicians add an extra dimension, particularly the fluid harpist.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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