The Pianist @ The Southbank Centre (London International Mime Festival) Review

As part of the London International Mime Festival, Thomas Monckton performs his clown and circus solo piece The Pianist. Every show in this annual festival tends to provide fresh perspectives of what theatre can be and for that same reason is worth taking a look to at least one of the many interesting things being created across the world.

Thomas Monckton, THE PIANIST © Heli Sorjonen 034

This piece is centered around the grand piano as the pianist prepares to begin his performance and miserably fails every attempt, with every little thing getting in the way: lamps, the music sheet, the stool of the piano, among many others. Thomas Monckton does very good clowning work; he transforms every tiny obstacle into a comic and dramatic scene. He enlarges the small and relishes on playing with ordinary things that soon become extraordinary. And all throughout the piece he shares this with the audience and reacts to our reactions, which in itself creates more reactions. It is a basic principle to keep a clown scene alive and it works perfectly. There isn’t anything more delightful to an audience than to see a performer reacting live to the unpredictability of theatre without getting thrown off.

I think the most fascinating part of this show is the mini-narratives created around each obstacle. When the pianist has to lower the stool to the right height of the piano he creates a mini story with his fingers running around the stool as if two people are sharing a journey. This, along with the great use of music, rapidly leads our imaginations and steals our hearts.

I can only imagine that the rehearsal process for this show must have been something quite exciting as I can picture the joy in the discovery of those precious moments in which the pianist fails to achieve his goal of playing. Sanna Silvennoinen and Thomas Monckton do a great job in spotting those moments that make this show what it is. The way this pianist treats the piano and its current condition would be something of an outrage to all professional piano players. However, that aspect only enlarges the oddity of it all, with Thomas in a proper pianist outfit being anything but proper on stage.

One spends most of the show believing that Thomas cannot play the piano at all and so we are quite surprised when he does play something a bit more complex. The end offers a touch of surrealism as a storm begins inside the piano followed by a few flowers blooming inside of it. Yes, flowers blooming in a piano. It is definitely an entrancing ending, with a more serious and poetic tone allowing perhaps for a bit of reflection after all the laughs throughout the show. The Pianist is beautiful, odd and sure to offer you lots of laughing out loud! 4/5

Review written by Sofia Moura.

The Pianist is currently showing as part of this year’s London International Mime Festival at the Purcell Room (Southbank Centre) until Sunday 18th January. For more information on the production, visit here…

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