In these early days of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, acts can normally start uncertainly, still cementing their best sequences or trialling new material on audiences before the ‘official’ Fringe opening. New Zealand-born Thomas Monckton, our titular pianist, has bucked this convention and delivered a resoundingly successful show straight off the mark – a comical farce that relies on a strong central concept to deliver some superb finished goods.
Monckton, like so many clown artists before him, has the dexterity and physical awkwardness to lollop across the stage effortlessly (in a bid to set up for his piano recital, more on that later) with a comedic sensibility only right for a man filling an audience of 200 over 27 consecutive nights. Where the show really excels however, is when Monckton unleashes his own circus acrobatics, displaying a physical strength entirely at odds with his lanky and ungainly persona. The man becomes a walking paradox – idiotic and clumsy, yet capable of wonderful physical feats.
There’s a nice structural arc to the story – Monckton simply has to get to his piano, keep hold of his music, sit down, have the lights work properly, and begin playing. It’s teleological – the show will always wrap up with Monckton accomplishing his desires, and the fun is to be in seeing what he manages to get up to along the way. This is less about where the show is going but instead simply how far it chooses to deviate from normality. It’s a staggeringly fun procedure and one that certainly had audiences onside throughout, and, as the show descended into paper ball fights, curtain puppetry and chandelier acrobatics, it never felt that Monckton had in some way lost the crowd – a superbly refined skill.
The Pianist is a show that will invariably pack out audiences and leave them laughing in stitches, and for that it is wholly deserved. For this reviewer, the perfect start to another Fringe year.
Find out more about The Pianist here.