Review: Anatomy of the Piano (For Beginners)

This review first appeared on the Ed Fringe Review website on 20 August 2015.

★★★★☆

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 skillful 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, 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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