Review: Rudy’s Rare Records @ Birmingham Rep

From its beginnings as a hit BBC radio comedy series Rudy’s Rare Records has made the transition to the big stage while keeping all the charm, warmth and sheer silliness of its original half-hour scripts, a much harder trick to bring off than the producers of this sure-fire hit make it look.

With a soundtrack to satisfy even the most die-hard reggae fan – think Phoenix City by Roland Alphonso – its stage debut is touchingly feel-good, filled with warmth and life. To make this happen it boasts a top-flight cast well able to bring its heart-warming storyline to vivid life via a script loaded with show-stopping one-liners – it really is very funny.

Lenny Henry as Adam and Natasha Godfrey as Tasha. Pic: Robert Day

Lenny Henry as Adam and Natasha Godfrey as Tasha. Pic: Robert Day

Set in a Handsworth ripe for re-development Rudy’s record shop is marooned by downloads and Amazon deals up to its neck in debt. It’s the timeless story of the little man with his back against the wall, but Rudy’s old now and beyond a fight. Cue his grown-up son who tries to get a handle on the case despite having his own issues and with a supporting cast of friends plus a little love interest a very human story can unfold.

Lenny Henry clearly demonstrates that he’s a national treasure returning in triumph to his home turf whose comic timing makes the part of Rudy’s son-with-issues Adam endearingly alive.

Natasha Godfrey as the “Black Goth” assistant is delightful, while Joivan Wade as Rudy’s troubled grandson looks set to have a great future – he can sing too. Jeffery Kissoon as Clifton, Rudy’s fellow shopkeeper and drinking pal gives a drawn-from-life portrait of a battered but optimistic philosopher, while Lorna Gayle as Doreen, Rudy’s on/off squeeze is a truly class act whose singing and sexy bumping are well worth the price of admission. But there’s always a star, and here it’s Larrington Walker as the complex, vulnerable but indomitable Rudy.

I won’t give away the coup de theatre which electrifies the second half, transforming this sitcom-with-a-heart into something greater – suffice it to say that with a very little tweaking by a canny producer this show could run for ever in the West End.

I would happily see this show again any night of the week for the charm of its very human story, beautifully played by a cast of top actors. I nearly forgot to report the audience’s final, spontaneous standing ovation. Catch it now before it becomes a cult blockbuster with tickets in three figures.

Rudy’s Rare Records runs at Birmingham Rep until September 20. For tickets go online at birmingham-rep.co.uk or phone the box office on 0121.236 4455.

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