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Sep 16th, 2019
Having barely survived a month on Broadway, Amanda Green (lyrics), David Lindsay-Abaire (book) and Tom Kitt's (score) pop-rock musical High Fidelity is enjoying a new birth at London's Turbine Theatre, courtesy of artistic director Paul Taylor-Mills.
Based on Nick Hornby's international 1995 bestseller of the same name, High Fidelity follows Rob (a 30-something record shop owner whose ideas about women, relationships and life leave a lot to be desired) as he traverses his latest break-up with girlfriend Laura.
The Turbine's aesthetic, a studio theatre housed in one of Battersea's railway arches, allows High Fidelity to be re-re-transported (after the Hollywood movie and Broadway musical Americanified it) to a grungy record shop just off Holloway road. With vinyl's pouring out from every orifice and bean bags strewn across the floor it's clear that Director/Choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves wants High Fidelity to become a semi-immersive experience. And it kind of works. The disheveled appearance of the performance space allows the audience to travel back to '90s London and into the life of Rob Gordon, the struggling shop's owner.
However, vinyl's and bean bags aside the Turbine's production is a little too big for its space. A big pop-rock score and claustrophobic choreography (which feels a bit more 2019 than 1995) feels constricted by the cramped stage and leaves the actors cooped up amongst the props. These elements also pull the action on stage and the story, which is so rooted in its time, apart. Perhaps ripping up the original score, adding some of the tunes which feature in Rob's "top five" lists, and tone down the twerking (did we twerk in the '90s?) would help centre the production.
But! What this production lacks in authenticity, it makes up in pure, unadulterated fun. The book is heavily dosed in some cringe-worthy comedy with the story's additional characters getting the majority of the hearty laughs. Robert Tripolino steals the show as lentil loving, harem pants-wearing hippy Ian. His exaggerated and highly physical performance hits every comedic beat and provides a delightful interlude from Rob's incessant entitled whining.
You're not meant to like Rob (a premise that underpins the original novel) and Oliver Ormson does a stellar job in bringing the character's irritating arrogance to life and thus made me eye-roll into oblivion. Shanay Holmes provides a gorgeous performance as Rob's long-suffering girlfriend Laura and Carl Au (Dick), Robbie Durham (Barry) and Joshua Denver (TMPMITW, watch the show to get it), do an equally stellar job as Rob's kooky side-kicks.
It is a shame that the rest of the women in the production don't get a chance to really shine (through no-one's fault but the out-dated script's) but as an ensemble, they carry the production well and burn brightly.
Although High Fidelity, like Rob, may not have reached its full potential yet this fun little show serves you a heady slice of nostalgia that will warm you up this wintertime.
View our show pages for more information about High Fidelity, Turbine Theatre.
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