“What came first, the music or the misery? Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
Those words belong to Rob Fleming, the curmudgeonly central character in Nick Hornby’s classic tome “High Fidelity”, but they could just as easily apply to The Cold Record’s 12-year-old protagonist, played with infectious exuberance by Eli Weinberg.
Prior to the performance, audience members are asked to email organisers their favourite “punk song”, and after meeting at The Tivoli and being escorted to a nearby, intimate “secret location”, the couple of dozen attendees take a seat on the hodgepodge of chairs arranged in a semi-circle around Weinberg.
The first half of the performance involves audience members discussing what inspired them to choose their songs, and the relaxed atmosphere enables Weinberg to develop an easy rapport with audience members as they expose their own emotional connections to music.
After a fleeting intermission, the audience returns and Weinberg places his headphones on and turns the emotional intensity up to 11 as he transforms into a 12-year-old, speaking in rapid-fire bursts and explaining his desire to become “the boy who will break the cold record” – the most days a student is sent home from school early with a fever.
As he explains, this is the only time he can immerse himself in his true love – rock ‘n’ roll records – and on the way to trying to achieve his goal, he develops an infatuation with his school nurse and is exposed to the raw emotional intensity of punk rock.
The Cold Record is expertly written, directed and executed, and much like the punk ethos that underpins its narrative, this singularly original production is the theatrical equivalent of a lo-fi, frenetic, three-chord slice of rough-hewn pop perfection, and it packs an emotional punch that will stay with viewers long after the performance’s fade-out.