The Pianist | Edinburgh Fringe 2014

There comes a point in the fringe festival when you can become quite cynical. Desperate in fact. And that’s when I start bargaining with the theatre gods to save me.

Luckily they seem to be in good humour. Because after a series of less-than-average theatre viewing I go to see The Pianist.

And huge thanks gods because Thomas Monckton and Circo Aereo are a match made in theatrical heaven. Forget the high art and a posh society recital for the elite. Here there is no crack of knuckles, no delicate arrangement of stool and clever posturing – in this space things are not what they seem. In fact it’s just all a bit crazy. Deliciously so.

Flowers bloom from the belly of the grand piano, spotlights dance around the space and are naturally chased, shoes get trapped in chandeliers, violence erupts beneath the seemingly innocuous piano cloth and of course there’s our pianist himself.

Dressed in impeccable tails, this tousled haired young man will master the instrument – or will forfeit his life (and more accurately, his dignity) in the process. The delight of The Pianist is that it takes the exclusive concert for those with a distinct appreciation and brings it into the realm of extraordinary play where bodies writhe, unexpected gaps open and a proliferation of multiple participants raise a cacophony – all without saying a word.

This is non-verbal physical theatre at its best. Succeeding on multiple levels, Monckton melds mime, clowning, circus and even magic to create a contemporary work that has huge appeal to audiences of all ages. Children and adults will find much to delight them in this hour where the absurd is the norm, and the inexplicable should be expected – without question or reason.

The carcass of the grand piano is a masterpiece in its own right and the set and design should be applauded for having to reconstruct this very essential and important character right here in Edinburgh for the show. In fact the involvement of the production team (and occasionally the audience) are what makes this show a particularly cohesive piece of work where we are reminded that lights and sound aren’t just pretty special effects but can be devilishly annoying – especially for someone like a concert pianist with a penchant for exacting expectations.

While this may not be theatre with an agenda – seeking to provoke or provide meaning – it is an excellent reminder of why we need performance making and makers that rise above politics and polemics; who have the magic touch to make their audiences laugh unashamedly, at ourselves and our world.


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