Everything you’ve heard about The Pianist is true, everything that praises it that is. It’s easy to talk only in hyperbole about this clever piece of work because, as my friend points out afterwards, Monckton is a modern Renaissance man; adept contortionist, wonderful, loveable clown and, as it transpires, a talented pianist. A gangly body, replete with ginger Einstein hair, means he also looks suitably scholarly for his role as the eager-to-impress musician.
There is something of the theatrical engineer as well, who has tightly constructed his scenario to look as though each disaster is an accident and every game a newly discovered joy. An attempt to lower his stool to the right height results in a miniature, silent movie, with the spinning seat as a stage on which his fingers becoming the legs of a high-speed chase. And there are countless, hilarious examples of how he manipulates his playing space to give the impression that he is under constant attack from an invisible force of chaos, as well as the clown’s own ineptitude.
For almost the entire show we are putty in his hands. Perhaps this is because his limber physicality makes you wonder if he’s made of putty. And I say almost because there are some mimed sequences which, in his flight of fantasy, go too far for us to follow. Sometimes the volume of the music or the length of the circus displays means he loses contact with us and –call me a laughter junky, if you will- but in moments I feel frustrated. It is clear, however, that the company are playing with style beyond classic clowning and the more sober final image is a thought provoking tone to finish on.
All in all, this is quite an incredible show that treats its audience to superb bodily intelligence and immaculate comic timing. Make a space in your festival schedule for it!