Direction: Thomas Monckton and Sanna Silvennoinen
Circa Theatre; Circa One (March 7-21)
The Pianist returns to Circa for a short season – it’s a must-see virtuoso performance, Thomas Monckton is rubber-faced and loose-limbed as he creates the kind of character that might only have happened previously had Victor Borge invented Mr. Bean.
In the larger Circa One (previously The Pianist played out in the smaller theatre, Circa Two) Monckton is mesmerising as he works through mime and gesture-storytelling, combines elements of clowning and physical theatre with a type of pathos tinged with the absurd. His drawn face and quivering limbs work together – and on their own; several stories are told in the way he moves.
And it does no service to this production – even though there are reviews about from previous shows, obviously – to divulge too much of the action beyond the simplest explanation that Monckton plays the titular instrumentalist and he’s aiming to put on a show. The show happens in and around any recital – as he makes magic from juggling manuscript pages and soft-shoe shuffling on the lid of the piano.
Most often The Pianist plays out as if some live-action version of your favourite Warner Bros. cartoon; as if that Victor Borge-created-version-of-Mr-Bean was then channelling Bugs Bunny.
It’s all deliriously funny, from the frustration and repetition to the simplest pratfalls and the cleverest contortions. It’s an incredible hour of wordless wonder. And somewhere in there, if you care to look, is a metaphor for perseverance, for the artistic challenges that can hobble a performer before they even get to perform. The Pianist is as much circus-act as it is conventional drama; it is in fact almost every kind of theatre you can imagine all rolled into one fluid – fantastic – performance. And, judging from the range of ages in the audience, eight to 80 I would guess, this truly offers the something-for-everyone selling point.