“Article by Ashley King, Photos by Akhil West
Brian’s Record Option in downtown Kingston is something to behold. As Brian himself says: some people like it, some people don’t. Some people appreciate the 80, 000 items stacked to the ceiling, spilling into the aisles, the smell of dust and history – some people see it as a fire hazard.
The Cellar Door Project specializes in creating and performing productions in spaces such as these, having performed The Lockup in Kingston’s City Hall and Tall Ghosts and Bad Weather which was performed in a cemetery. They re-create history for a unique theatre experience.
Before the show begins, audience members are sent on a quest to find an album that’s been listed on their tickets. This proves to be quite the task, leafing through the Rocky Mountains of record stores in search of one particular album. Interrupting the intense focus is a voice yelling, “Did you find it?!” as someone comes out of nowhere, navigating through the narrow aisles towards the back of the shop. The show has begun so naturally that you don’t know whether to keep looking for the album or follow the voices to see what’s unfolding down the aisle.
The stage is made of thousands of records, cassettes, books, CDs, hidden love notes, lost wedding rings and history. Audience members are sprawled through the aisles as are the actors, creating an interesting dynamic. The dialogue is heard differently by every person in the shop, from behind different piles of records. You see what the characters in the story see and you’re smelling the same dusty record shop smell they are.
In a play written by Sean Meldrum, we see Brian’s Record Option as a stage to tell the humorous and thoughtful story of newly hired employee, apathetic in nature and very connected to modern music technology, (“New”, played by Audrey Sara) being trained by fanatical but coherent audiophile and current employee, “Used” (played by Hannah Komlodi). But it’s more than just learning the opening and closing of the shop as expressed by “Used”. It’s a culture, it’s unlike any HMV or record store experience – it’s got history and is spilling over with stories (as it is with records). The enthusiasm of Used is hard to ignore as she runs and skips down the aisles, whizzing by audiences members expressing to New the importance of physical media vs. the technology of today’s music.
New and Used served as more than just a history lesson and a fantastic artistic expression. In the time spent at Brian’s Record Option during the show, I noticed so many more quirks to appreciate. Counting how many of the same Ringo Starr photo I could see from one vantage point, looking down at my feet and realizing this place is quite literally built out of music, the ominous cellar staircase behind the register – or rather the utensil drawer that serves as a register. All of the things that make Brian’s Record Option more exciting than the typical retail experience.
This production was a unique experience for the people that were lucky enough to have seen it (only 5 tickets per night were available). It gave people so much to contemplate with the many themes it explored (things vs people, digital vs physical media) and it will truly become a part of Brian’s history, which is a staple of Kingston.
Visit Brian’s Record Option at 381 Princess St, Kingston, ON. to see it for yourself.