Arts review: The Pianist - acrobatic mime gets a laugh, though tone uneven

Billed as a 'solo comic contemporary circus piece', The Pianist is too long and ends on a jarringly serious note for the young audience it is aimed at

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 5:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2016, 5:45am

The Pianist is all about the journey than the destination, even though the “getting there” in this case is merely from one side of the stage to another.

Created and directed by Thomas Monckton and Sanna Silvennoinen, this hour-long “solo comic contemporary circus piece”, part of this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival, targets primarily a younger audience though the acrobatic and clowning techniques on show are no child’s play.

The lanky Monckton steps into (and out of) the shoes of “the pianist” who is about to give the performance of a lifetime. But like in a nightmare, things just keep getting in his way: a curtain that doesn’t part, a piano that collapses with a broken leg, a stool that is too high to sit on and an elusive spotlight that falls on every part of the stage other than the performer.

Monckton was able to get laughs from the word go; his limbs are incredibly supple, his dance moves both goofy and electrifying, his body language engaging. Even his unruly hair appeared to be able to act. How he swung on the chandelier and leapt from the stool to perform a handstand on the piano was awe-inspiring.

But since much of the performance was in mime – with very little piano playing despite the production’s title – not everyone was amused. The young girl sitting behind me kept saying she wasn’t enjoying the show while her mother was confused when the house lights came on and surprised by how short the performance was – but just as well.

Despite Monckton’s onstage charisma and excellent miming skills, that journey from backstage to the piano felt a little overstretched and the ending was too serious and philosophical to conclude an otherwise fun and entertaining show.

The Pianist, Circo Aereo and Thomas Monckton, Hong Kong City Hall Theatre. Reviewed: March 12