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High Fidelity


The Turbine Theatre

High Fidelity

High Fidelity

The Turbine Theatre

Reviewed – 1st November 2019



“The pitch is perfect, as is the balance of ballads and foot stompers – the ideal mixtape”


Nick Hornby’s novel, written nearly twenty-five years ago, was an instant hit capturing the mid-nineties zeitgeist when the notion that ‘boys will be boys’ was just beginning to be chipped away by the new sensibilities. This could have been a death blow for the novel, but the emotional intelligence of Hornby’s writing allowed it to endure; its success leading to the millennial film starring John Cusack and Jack Black, and eventually a stage musical. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire with music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green it premiered on Broadway in 2006 but closed after thirteen performances.

Paul Taylor-Mills’ production at the Turbine Theatre has successfully brought the show up to date while staying true to its roots, and it is safe to say that this sensational reinterpretation will not suffer the same fate. Writer and comedienne Vikki Stone has been brought on board to adapt the script and lyrics, relocating the action back to London and reclaiming the inherent buoyancy and playfulness of the story.

The plot focuses on Rob, the owner of a record shop in Holloway, whose girlfriend, Laura, has just left him. Obsessed with compiling lists and ‘mixtapes’, he recalls his five most memorable breakups before Laura, and eventually his self-examination leads to self-realisation and reconciliation. On paper it should be hard to like the overgrown, commitment-phobic problem child that is Rob. His dated sense of male entitlement should rub you up the wrong way in today’s climate, but Oliver Ormson’s winning performance grabs our empathy with both hands.

Supported by an outstanding cast, the laughs come thick and fast. Robbie Durham and Carl Au as Barry and Dick, the part time hired help in Rob’s record store, complement Ormson, creating a trio that could win awards if that was the goal. But there is a self-deprecatory disregard for approval that is reflected in the characters’ relish in working in a shop that has “zero growth potential”. Yet in this mannish world, the women call the shots. Shanay Holmes, as Laura, knows she has the upper hand, but Holmes underscores her fiery independence with a vulnerability that simultaneously softens and strengthens the character.

Tom Kitt’s score mixes pop with rock, heavy metal and Motown, country and soul with a seasoning of rap and R&B. It could easily be a mess but, aided by director Tom Jackson Greaves’ sharp choreography, the eclectic selection of styles has a cohesive whole. It is a feat pulled off only by the close-knit chemistry of the entire ensemble and band of musicians. The pitch is perfect, as is the balance of ballads and foot stompers – the ideal mixtape. In an age of Spotify playlists, it is refreshing to hear references to cassettes and vinyl. David Shields’ set places us in a bygone world of the record shop, before music went online. But the essential truth of music and its undeniable impact on us remains true and keeps this story relevant and timeless. “High Fidelity” is a timely boost of optimism. Rob would put it at the top of his list of reasons to be cheerful.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior


High Fidelity

The Turbine Theatre until 7th December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Torch Song | ★★★★★ | September 2019


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Fun Home – 5 Stars


Fun Home

Young Vic

Reviewed – 30th June 2018


“David Zinn’s design is spectacular, and the breathtaking reveal (I won’t say too much) is the icing on an already many-tiered cake”


Alison is a gay graphic novelist and, now in her 40s, she’s sifting through her memories, reflecting on her childhood growing up in a funeral home (or fun home for short), her coming out, her relationship with her father and his subsequent suicide. Alison never liked wearing dresses and her father never liked the way she drew and maybe they are worlds apart or maybe they are more similar than they ever knew.

Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic novel, an autobiographical tragicomedy, has been adapted for the stage by Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and what an adaptation it is. ‘Fun Home’ won five Tony’s on Broadway where it premiered in 2015, and it’s very obvious why. This is an overwhelmingly outstanding piece of theatre, an exemplar of queer representation onstage, studded with breathtaking performances.

There isn’t a weak link across the cast. Our three Alison’s, child (Harriet Turnbull alternating with Brooke Haynes), university student (Eleanor Kane), and reflecting forty three year old (Kaisa Hammarlund), meld naturally into each other. Turnbull is bright and honest onstage and the song ‘Ring of Keys’ is a particularly moving and relatable moment. Kane’s Alison is equally fantastic, exploding into her sexuality at university, signing up to organise protests and falling in love with the wonderfully balanced Joan, played faultlessly by Cherrelle Skeete. Hammarlund’s older Alison takes us with her on this journey of remembering, watching over her life and drawing its pieces back together, strong and quietly moving. Zubin Varla is Bruce, Alison’s father, volatile and vibrant and brooding. Jenna Russell as Bruce’s defeated wife, Helen, is worn down, exhausted and deeply moving in her brief moments of openness.

David Zinn’s design is spectacular, and the breathtaking reveal (I won’t say too much) is the icing on an already many-tiered cake.

Witty, playful, tender and moving all at once, the production is skillfully crafted so that these scenes exist alongside each other slipping between humour and gravity with ease and skill. Expect to cry. A lot. This is the best piece of theatre I have seen in sometime, an exemplar of queer theatre and musical theatre, and flawless across the board.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Marc Brenner


Fun Home

Young Vic until 1st September


Previously reviewed at this venue
How to win Against History | ★★★★ | December 2017


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