Orpheus in the Record Shop

Leeds Playhouse
October 13-15, 2022

Leeds is a wonderful example of a self-sustaining, modernizing city. The de facto capital of West Yorkshire, it’s bound to contain & attract a wide variety of talented performers – & of course the odd reviewer to check out what they’re up to. I’m in the latter category, & despite living in Scotland, I was heading down for the Burnley-Swansea game anyway (4-0, top of the league), so I’m like let’s check out the Leeds Playhouse while I’m nestling in the Pennines.

I’d never been before, & on entering for the first time fell instantly enamoured of the space. A proper Athenian ‘Theatre of Dionysus’, with steep’d galleries climbing tall into the cavernous auditorium, overlooking a spacious circular performing space. Yeah, it was great, & the acoustics were wicked. But so much for the tea-take – I think that’s what they call a bread roll in these parts -, what about the filling.

I love my Orpheus, me – he was probably the first western poet, c.1400 BC, & more than likely responsible for the original penning of the Cosmogonies, the Theogonia, & the wonderful Titanomachia. A couple of years ago I even visited the Greek island of Samothraki on some kind of Orphic pilgrimage, where the adolescent Orpheus was supposed to have been shown the lyre for the first time, strung by goat hair, which of course would lead to the empire of the guitar.

I am lonely
I need some serotonin
Somebody phone me

In 2022, however, the empire of the guitar is being challenged by such dazzling devices as the loop-pedal, & the way that the astonishing performer that is local lad, Testament, utilised this device meant the show did exactly what it said on the tin – Orpheus was truly in the house, presenting us with a truly Olympian vocal range with all sorts of stuff going on, from Gregorian chanting to hip-hop where he was rapping & beat boxing at the same time! I even thought of a new word to coin the magic; jawgawp, when you gawp at something with yer jaw hanging out – which I was doing!

All these audio skills are supported by a nifty script & some virtuosic musical performances from a small but tight-as-you-like ensemble of musicians. These came on to the stage one-by-one as the story & the intensity of the music developed, ending in an otherworldly jarring, sparring finale which had the entire audience ovating on our feet.

There’s comedy, there’s warmth, & there’s a proper natural insight into the mechanics of running a record shop. The substory of Testament’s dealings with DJ Vulture was an excellent narrative to plunge into in between the tunes – tho’ the love story not so much. Perhaps this was an allusion to the original Orphean Euridice story, where he tries to bring her back from the dead – in this tale she’s an absent ex-lover -, but it didn’t have the same impact as the rest of the play. Despite that, it’s extremely rare to get a blend of theatrical performance & live gig, where you feel as if you’re experiencing both sensations at the same time, but the hypnotizing mantra that is Orpheus in the Record shop pull’d the concept off magnificently.

Damian Beeson Bullen

Posted on October 16, 2022, in 2022. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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