AU ABROAD

Theatre Review: The Pianist - Arts Centre Melbourne (Performances through 17th January)

Gone are the days of the silent movies set in black and white where a comical gentleman enigmatically dances around the screen engaged in a slapstick routine. We now live in a world where sound, special effects, and computer graphics are what it takes to keep us enthralled. When I heard that The Pianist was coming to town I was excited to step back in time and enjoy a style now seemingly lost. This one man contemporary theatre show is performed by Thomas Monckton a Parisian trained circus performer who specialises in both clowning and mime.

I’d seen mime before but had never really engaged fully with the art, so I was interested to see what this New Zealand born performer had in store for us. The setting was quite intimate, as a packed audience sat around the stage in the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Theatre. The audience hushed as the lights went out and the music began. At first I didn’t know what to think. Was this going to be the same old ‘slapstick’ style of comedy seen a thousand times before? Certainly not! In fact the routine itself was quite ingenious. I found myself more entertained and captivated than I usually would be, and quite honestly laughed more than I have in a very long time. Mime in itself is comprised of so many facets, and needs a precise application to get it right. Acting, emotion, performance, and humour all have to merge flawlessly to create the perfect show. Thomas successfully welded all of this together to create an hour of pure joy.

His circus abilities and training shone through as he tumbled and jumped and fell and flew through the air, all whilst utilising the tiny performance space. He showed great strength in his impressive balancing holds, making the audience ooh and ahh in amazement. His facial expressions and body language really amplified the humour, even more so when audience participation was involved. The props were also cleverly made, especially the grand piano, the star of the show. It fell apart, it got trampled on, it had smoke coming out of it, and still stood to see the end of the show, as it will night after night. Another part of the performance that stood out to me was the ‘running fingers act’, audiences who have seen the show will understand, however to other people it’s a little hard to explain. Thomas gave two fingers on each hand somewhat of a personality, and made them run along a little stool as if running a race. Let’s just say the end result was lots of baby fingers and hilarious applause from the audience.

If you only see one show this year, I would highly recommend taking the entire family to see ‘The Pianist’. It’s the type of performance that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It’s ingenious, utterly hilarious, and entirely enthralling. Thomas is the full package, and I am excited to see what the future holds for this talented performer who is successfully resurrecting the art of Mime.

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Performances continue through 17th January at the Arts Centre Melbourne. For more details head here.

The reviewer attended the performance on 12th January 2016.