Theatre Review: High Fidelity

Rating: 3

By Richard Barber

First it was a bestselling book by Nick Hornby. Then it was a hit film starring John Cusack. Next year, its hero becomes its heroine in the shape of Zoe Kravitz in a US TV series. 

But in the meantime, High Fidelity has morphed into a musical, to be found in the bowels of what was Battersea power station at a new theatre called the Turbine, sufficiently tucked away that I was half-expecting to be handed a Blue Peter badge when I finally stumbled upon it.

The setting, you may recall, is a down-at-heel record shop in Holloway Road in north London that wears its inability to make any significant sales as a sort of badge of honour. Strictly for aficionados only.

It’s run by the hapless Rob (Oliver Ormson) and two worse-than-useless assistants, one of whom, Dick (Carl Au) may once have had sex but he can’t be quite sure. Rob’s own love life is somewhat in disarray, his lawyer girlfriend Laura (Shanay Holmes) at breaking point because of his inability to confront his emotions and, more pragmatically, to remain steadfast and true.

This is an evening of two halves, with the second, unusually, very much stronger than the first. The first musical number, The Last Real Record Store, sets the scene for the opening act: lively and tuneful, it’s too long and most people involved shout rather than sing. Combined with too much jumping about, there’s more than a whiff of an end-of-term sixth-form college production.

But after the interval a much more nuanced tone creeps into proceedings. There’s a lovely duet, I Slept With Someone Who Slept With Lyle Lovett, from Rob and Laura, while Eleanor Kane makes her mark accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. The music is by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green, whose originals have been anglicised by Vikki Stone from a version that lasted a matter of days off-Broadway.

There’s a very funny turn from Joshua Dever, who pops up briefly as Neil Young and, hilariously, as Bruce Springsteen, his plaid shirt rolled up high above his bulging biceps. The chief charm of the show, though, is the likable Oliver Ormson, which is just as well as he’s never off stage. Somehow he manages to make his fecklessness almost endearing and he’s got a strong pair of lungs on him.

So, a curiosity worth seeking out, but I’d take some sandwiches – and a teenager or two – with you, just in case you get lost.

At the Turbine Theatre, London until December 7: 020-7851 0300,