Anatomy of the Piano (for Beginners)

Mon 10th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

William Shaw

at 01:15 on 20th Aug 2015

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Whatever his other merits as a performer, Will Pickvance clearly has a remarkable work ethic. Playing two shows a day between this and his other show, Alchemy of the Piano, is something of a feat in and of itself. Fortunately, Pickvance has many more merits than simple stamina, as this charming and witty children's show demonstrates.

The show takes the form of a whimsical autobiography-cum-science lesson, with Pickvance starting off with a story about accidentally receiving a piano from father Christmas, then running through a wonderfully silly lesson on the evolutionary history of the piano, and Pickvance's favourite musicians. The show mixes lengthy piano solos with thoughtful monologues, and is backed up by a projector showing various amusing and fantastical drawings.

The result is sweet, gentle and incredibly watchable; while the humour skews fairly young, adults will find plenty to enjoy in Pickvance's skilful and eclectic playing, which effortlessly traverses a wealth of musical history over the course of an hour. Pickvance clearly cares deeply about his subject matter, and his enthusiasm is infectious. This is a show to introduce your kids to classical music, and Pickvance does it on their level, without talking down to them.

The show's biggest problem is that it has something of a slow start; it takes about ten minutes for Pickvance to get to the meat of his act, and at yesterday's performance there were a few fidgets from the audience before things got going. Pickvance, to his credit, seemed to recognise this, and his interactions with the audience demonstrate the kind of playful self-awareness this kind of show required. He was happy to throw out questions, and always took answers from the children rather than the adults. That, in itself, is the mark of a skilled children's entertainer, and the crowd clearly liked him as a result.

A splendid piece of children's theatre, The Anatomy of the Piano is more or less an absolute joy from start to finish. An intelligent and enthusiastic celebration, this is a show that truly has something for everyone. A perfect start to a day at the Fringe.

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Hannah Matthews

at 18:27 on 20th Aug 2015

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Performed solely by Will Pickvance, Anatomy of the Piano takes you own a journey of Will’s own relationship with the piano as well as the evolution of the piano itself. From spaceships to scales to Bach’s wig this show is sure not to disappoint. Anatomy of the Piano is a delightfully entertaining, informative and expertly executed.

We begin with a story of Pickvance's childhood disappointment one Christmas when he received a piano rather than a much cooler spaceship. However, it becomes apparent that while the piano can’t take him to literal space it can take him and the audience on other adventures. With the aid of hand-drawn projected sketches, we follow him through back to the beginning of piano-history and the lesser known ‘cave piano’, the ‘underwater piano’ and then more accurately the piano’s fore-bearers from the Harpsichord to Klavier.

From the evolution of the piano we move to the evolution of music with Bach and Beethoven. Will provides hope for all those currently at the ‘boring’ beginner stage that once you’ve learnt your scales they form the building blocks for Bach or the foundations for jazzy improvisations. Will & his audience begin to see that while his piano can’t take him to literal space he’s still able to create the sounds of the universe, all from the comfort of his own bedroom.

The show is upbeat and well paced. Aware of his audience, Pickvance’s expressions are entertaining and he keeps younger members of the audience engaged throughout with questions and jokes about Bach’s wig and Beethoven’s funny hair. His un-piecing of the piano to reveal the engineering beneath was both fascinating and educational, all the while demonstrating his musicality by playing the piano with such infectious excitement and expression. His energy both on and off the stool was fantastic and his stamina to keep children (and adults) continuously entertained for an hour is commendable.

Pickvance describes the piano as ‘pretty cool’ but if he could see himself play I’d definitely say it deserves a really cool. With a smoke machine, drawings and music I challenge any child (or any adult) not to leave entertained, informed and wishing they could play the piano.

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