Playhouse and Opera North take on Orpheus for the BBC


Orpheus in the Record Shop. Pic: Anthony Robling
Orpheus in the Record Shop. Pic: Anthony Robling

Leeds Playhouse and Opera North’s co-production of writer and beatboxer Testament’s Orpheus in the Record Shop has been filmed for the BBC’s Lights Up, a season of plays for BBC TV and radio produced with theatres across the UK.

Orpheus in the Record Shop was originally staged at Leeds Playhouse last October, as part of Connecting Voices, co-produced with Opera North. This series of six pieces fused classic and contemporary theatre on themes of isolation, connection, resilience and reflection.

Acclaimed Leeds rapper, writer and world record-holding beatboxer Testament was commissioned to explore the power of the solo voice and the relationship between performer and audience. The result, Orpheus, fused speech and beatboxing with players from the Opera North orchestra in a collaboration that gave the Greek myth a contemporary Yorkshire twist.

Testament said: “The positive response caught me entirely off guard and makes me very grateful for my collaborators, musicians and for Leeds Playhouse and Opera North taking a chance on a project that ended up growing into something very different from where we started.

“The play is a tangle of emotions: bitterness, regret, joy, fear and ultimately belief in love in its universal sense. Being asked to work further on the piece to prepare it for television has been a huge challenge.”

Orpheus will be broadcast on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer this spring.

Meanwhile Opera North has launched other new projects coming up in Leeds and on radio in the next couple of months.

Conductor Richard Farnes will take charge in a concert featuring repertoire by Sibelius, Janacek and Humperdinck to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this Spring. A concert recording of Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, conducted from the harpischord by Laurence Cummings and featuring guest soloists Paula Murrihy (Orfeo), Fflur Wyn (Euridice) and Daisy Brown (Amore) with the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and a specially commissioned, behind-the-scenes film documenting the recording of Orfeo ed Euridice in real time at Leeds Town Hall to be available ONDemand later this spring.