I read Nick Hornby's novel about Rob, the Holloway record shop owner many years ago. His constant re-cataloging of his personal record collection, and his 'top 5' lists was a source of amusement; we've all come across someone like that. His relationship with women, and in particular Laura the woman he loves, is much more complex than his relationship with the vinyl. Frankly, he's not that likeable a character, and I did wonder quite how it would work as a musical. Played by the excellent Oliver Ormson, who is on set pretty much the whole time, Rob eventually comes across as rather endearing.
Unlike the film, which moved the action to the Chicago, this production at the new Turbine Theatre in Battersea, has restored the story back to North London. The shop is staffed by Barry and Dick both part-timers, who nonetheless turn up every day, and a cast of regulars who come to chat, share their vinyl snobbery, but never buy much. As sung by Rob, it's a business with "zero growth potential" but he wouldn't have it any other way.
Rob’s tells the story to us, letting us into what's going on in his life and in his head. Playing opposite him is Shanay Holmes who is excellent as Laura. She brilliantly portrays the conflict between still being in love with Rob, but also badly hurt by his unfaithfulness. Her revenge fling with guru Ian, the man who handled Kurt Cobain's intervention, seemed a strange choice for the level headed lawyer. It does provide one of the funnier moments, when there's an observation that the intervention clearly hadn't gone that well!
The songs are a mixture of styles with rock, pop, R&B, soul, folk, heavy metal, country and rap featured. There is even a visit from “Bruce Springsteen”. The rest of the cast support the two leads superbly and the orchestra move with ease through the different genres.
As the musical draws to a conclusion, new romances and friendships are formed, and Rob realises that Laura, far from not making it to into his 'top 5 breakups', is actually the number 1 and that he has to change.
To be honest, I didn't have high expectations of High Fidelity, but really enjoyed this energetic and entertaining show. We even got to rifle though the pile of old vinyl left by our seats as if we were in Rob's shop in Holloway. The muffled rumble of the trains running overhead the converted railway arch only added to the atmosphere of the slightly seedy shop. Highly recommended for a fun night out.
This revived part of Battersea is turning into a vibrant part of South London. There's Battersea Brewery next door which has a very good taproom selling a good selection of wine alongside the beers. There are several excellent restaurants including: Cinnamon Kitchen, Mother, and a branch of Brindsea where we ate post show. A great spot for locals and worth a visit if you aren't so local.
HIGH FIDELITY THE TURBINE THEATRE
WRITTEN BY DAVID LINDSEY-ABAIRE WITH MUSIC BY TOM KITT & LYRICS BY AMANDA GREEN DIRECTED & CHOREOGRAPHED BY TOM JACKSON GREAVES BASED ON THE NOVEL BY NICK HORNBY 21 OCTOBER – 7 DECEMBER 2019 The Turbine Theatre, Arches Lane, Circus West Village, London, SW11 8AB https://www.theturbinetheatre.com/