Turbine Theatre, London – until 7 December 2019
Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, a book about love and music set in a run-down North London record shop has crossed mediums being made into both a film and a musical, with a TV series on the way in 2020. The location for the film and the shows opening on Broadway was America but in this UK premiere, it’s been transported back to its roots and is firmly rooted in London. As the Turbine Theatre’s second production, it’s wonderful to see a musical which brings to life some of the excellence of this city.
High Fidelity tells the story of Rob who owns a record shop which is barely surviving, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Laura, a lawyer who he loves but struggles to maintain a mature, long lasting relationship with. In the shop are also Barry and Dick, two misfits who started as part-timers and ended up sticking around and creating lives amongst the records. The lonely characters are portrayed wonderfully and despite being somewhat heartbreaking to watch, it’s lovely to be reminded that there’s a place for everyone.
The whole story is told from Rob’s perspective as he addresses the audience and tells them what’s going on both in his physical world and in his head. Rob chronicles many of his life’s moments into ‘Top Five’ lists which are not only entertaining but an insight into how his brain works. On stage for pretty much the entirety of the show, Oliver Ormson is charming as Rob.
Despite playing a character who it’s often hard to empathise with, Ormson brings a warmth and sincerity which makes the audience side with him even when his decisions are rash or morally dubious. His voice is strong and he maintains an energy which fizzles throughout and really powers the show. Opposite him, Shanay Holmes is exquisite as Laura who is continually conflicted by her feelings for Rob. Holmes’ voice is absolutely exceptional and she manages to shine in both the bold, booming moments and the simple, toned down times.
The entirety of the cast give excellent performances. Joshua Dever is vocally excellent and earnest until the very end; Eleanor Kane is outstanding as Marie. Her voice fills the Turbine Theatre as she envelops the audience with her delightful Brandi Carlile-esque tones and gives a performance to remember.
Robert Tripolino gives a show stealing performance as the wacky Ian, a spiritualist who is all about the good vibes and natural healing. Tripolino is hilarious in pretty much every moment of his stage time and a real stand out. Mention must go to Rosie Fletcher who shines out from start to finish and gives vocals for not just days, but months.
Tom Jackson Greaves directs with a brilliant ease and fluency so the entire production feels relatable. Perhaps not in terms of the story itself but through the truthful self-reflection and humour of it all. Whilst there’s not an overwhelming amount of choreography, what’s there is phenomenal. The small stage is used to it’s full capabilities as the cast often move around as if inside Rob’s brain. Particularly wonderful is the balloon choreography which is ingenious and incredibly sleek. David Shields’ set is simplistic and effective. Record sleeves scatter the theatre and the stage is transformed by small changes which work perfectly to signal the varying locations.
The plot is by no means the best thing in the world and some of the songs feel too much like fillers but the performances and the Great British Bake Off meets Bat Out of Hell vibes of the whole thing make High Fidelity a throughly enjoyable night out. The Turbine Theatre team are showing us bit by bit what they’re made of and we can only wait to see what will come next in this new London hub.
High Fidelity runs at the Turbine Theatre until 7th December 2019
photo credit: Mark Senior