Review: Orpheus in the Record Shop At Leeds Playhouse

Saturday 10th October 2020 at Leeds Playhouse (Quarry Theatre).

Orpheus in the Record Shop brings the incredibly talented Testament back to Leeds Playhouse, and it’s a return worth waiting for. With text and music by Testament (with additional music by Taz Modi) and direction from Aletta Collins, musical and storytelling styles merge to tell a tale of lost love which combines traditional with contemporary and the universal with the personal.

The original Orpheus may have lost his beloved Eurydice to the underworld, but this Orpheus has lost his love to opportunities abroad – modern relationships just steer that way sometimes. Here, Testament, the rapper-beatboxer-composer-spoken word artist- extraordinaire is joined, little by little, by vocalist Helen Evora and musicians from Opera North’s orchestra (Catherine Landen, Ian Bone, Andrew Mason, Adam Mackenzie, Bob, Ashworth, Christian Jones, Blair Sinclair, Celina Saout and Chris Bradley). The results are pretty epic on the ear.

Testament’s Orpheus is a classic wounded lover trying to find a new equilibrium, and while he’s trying not to ‘look back’, he’s struggling to let go entirely. So with his record shop providing both escape and further anxiety, Orpheus relays for us details of his relationships with family, friends, strangely knowledgeable customers and of course, the lost love. Using music and records as sounding boards, he reflects on the difficulties of going it alone, and Testament delivers a performance which is both sensitive and rousing, with a good dose of wit and charm thrown in too.

Call it what you like – musical magic tricks or auditory alchemy, Testament is never less than impressive to watch and he’s as impressive here as he was in Woke. Layering sounds via his tech gadgetry, he very nearly creates a one man band before the Opera North talent is even on the scene. And once we have all musicians playing together, we reach not only the peak of the story but of the storytelling; it’s a pretty fantastic set of sights and sounds as traditional meets contemporary in this merging of myth and relatable reality.

Orpheus in the Record Shop offers up a unique blend of musical influences for a thrilling production and some fantastically unique storytelling – catch it if you can.

Orpheus in the Record Shop is a Leeds Playhouse and Opera North co-production. It plays Leeds Playhouse until October 17th 2020 as part of the Connecting Voices series and you can find tickets here.

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