Leeds Playhouse and Opera North announce co-production as part of the BBC Lights Up season

Testament’s Orpheus in the Record Shop has been filmed for BBC Lights Up. The season of plays has been produced in partnership with theatres across the UK as part of the BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Testament live and he’s a fantastic artist and performer, so it’s great to see new audiences being able to experience his work.

The show was originally staged at Leeds Playhouse in October 2020 as a co-production with Opera North. Acclaimed Leeds-based rapper, writer and world record holding beatboxer Testament explores the power of the solo voice within a communal space in the show. It’s a creative fusion of spoken word, beatboxing and orchestra that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.

Though I haven’t seen the live stage version of the show, I’m certainly going to tune in to see the filmed version, which was directed by James Brining and Alex Ramseyer-Bache.

Jonty Claypole, BBC Director of Arts, said: “BBC Lights Up is a major broadcast season celebrating the creativity and resilience of UK theatre in its darkest hour. It’s that seemingly impossible thing: a theatre festival in the midst of a pandemic, consisting of eighteen original productions from theatres and producers right across the UK. Testament’s Orpheus in the Record Shop, with Leeds Playhouse and Opera North, is an entertaining, poetic and deeply moving show written and performed by one of the most exciting creative voices working anywhere in the UK right now. I am delighted it is joining BBC Lights Up, and that BBC audiences around the country will have access to this acclaimed production.”

Testament said: “The creation of Orpheus in the Record Shop was an intense and fiercely contended pursuit. The nature of lockdown, the exciting last-minute commission, and the time and resource limitations forced me, director Aletta Collins and dramaturg Amy Leach to be as innovative as we could. The positive response has caught me entirely off guard and makes me very grateful for my collaborators, musicians and for Leeds Playhouse and Opera North taking a chance on a project that ended up growing into something very different from where we started. The play is a tangle of emotions: bitterness, regret, joy, fear and ultimately belief in love in its universal sense. Being asked to work further on the piece to prepare it for television has been a huge challenge, and my hope is that the laughter, music and messages within it will be an encouragement to us all.”

Orpheus in the Record Shop will be broadcast on BBC Four and released on BBC iPlayer very soon, so watch this space.

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