Anatomy of the Piano at the Spread Eagle
Will Pickvance performed his one-man show in sell-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 and 2014. It is the perfect unconventional show in many ways: intimate, distinct, indefinable. In the cosy little space above Croydon’s Spread Eagle pub, the line of chairs crushed up against the unused bar, Anatomy of the Piano seems to be perfectly at home.
What commences is an ode to a great love: Pickvance’s for the piano. With nothing but a projector screen, an upright piano and a startlingly dextrous pair of hands, he helps the viewer to understand this affection, exploring the history, physicality and capabilities of the most classic of instruments. Haphazard drawings are projected onto the screen to illustrate stories which turn into lessons which follow on from songs which merge into recitals.
By necessity, Pickvance works with a different, unfamiliar piano at every new venue. This “Croydonian specimen” is a little twangy but, as he explains, a pianist learns to go on many first dates. The varying styles and conditions of piano that Pickvance happens upon throughout his tour mean that no two shows can ever be the same. A new relationship is forming each time.
Anatomy of the Piano will gift the audience with the teasers of a new vocabulary. “Pianocity” is used frequently, as is “radial happenings”, which refers to the releasing of a key’s note into existence. Take a look at the handy Pickvancesaurus on the website for a full lexicon breakdown.
Pickvance’s musical talent is well showcased as he performs beautifully throughout, morphing from frantic fingerwork to more pensive pieces, all the while with a certain whimsy lingering. His back is to the audience as he plays, but he cranes around to face it each time he speaks or sings. Impressive pieces of music are contrasted with silly songs like Trouser Press Depression, and fantastical ideas about pianos mating, or having started out as aquatic creatures.
There’s not a lot going on in terms of structure or phrasing here, and the show is rather brief and simplistic, but it’s an enjoyable experience all the same for its single-minded passion.
Pickvance’s final bow and word of thanks is somewhat awkward. Here is a man who seems most himself when sat before the ivory keys, or to use his words: his monogamous partner, his wooden box, an aquatic animal, his social statement.
Anatomy of the Piano is on at Wilton’s Music Hall from 20th until 22nd May 2015, for further information or to book, visit here.
Watch an extract from Anatomy of the Piano here:
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