Leeds Playhouse and Opera North’s BBC Lights Up commission, Orpheus in the Record Shop, is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. It’s part of BBC Lights Up, a season of plays for BBC TV and radio produced in partnership with theatres across the UK.
I watched the show last week and it’s another fabulous performance by acclaimed writer and beatboxer Testament. It fuses spoken word and beatboxing with players from the Orchestra of Opera North in an exciting collaboration that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.
The show explores the relationship between performer and audience beautifully. There are moments of humour throughout, little nods to indicate the performer is talking right at the audience. This would illicit a giggle from a live audience, but the streamed version still does a great job of letting the audience into the joke without being too overly cheesy about it. It’s a lovely balance between feeling involved without feeling patronised.
Director James Brining and designer Alex Ramseyer-Bache have become masters of transporting a stage show to the silver screen without losing any of its magic. Testament is an undoubtedly talented performer, and his ability to create complex pieces yet make them accessible and enjoyable is truly wonderful and I’d recommend giving the show a watch. It’s worthwhile reading up on the Greek mythology around Orpheus in advance to give the performance a bit of extra context. However, I hadn’t done that before getting stuck in and really enjoyed the show for what it was – a touching, talented one-man show.
Orpheus in the Record Shop was originally staged at Leeds Playhouse in October 2020 as part of a series of new pieces centred around themes of isolation and connection and resilience and reflection. It was part of the initial remobilisation of live theatre.
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.”