Friday, 17 June 2016

A Pianist's Dramaturgy: Thomas Monckton @ Edfringe 2016

Aurora Nova presents Circo Aereo & Thomas Monckton:

A highbrow piano recital turns into a spectacular catastrophe in a Total Theatre Award nominated clowning show

Performed by Thomas Monckton | Directed by Sanna Silvennoinen and Thomas Monckton
Assembly Roxy, Central 4 – 29 Aug 2016 (not 10, 15 & 22), 12.25pm (1.25 pm)

A show that’s toured the world from the USA to Finland to London’s Southbank Centre and Edinburgh Fringe 2014, The Pianist is a solo contemporary circus piece from Lecoq trained Thomas Monckton centred on, in, under and around one of the most magnificent of all musical instruments, the grand piano. 

Accompanying this elegant apparatus is the poised pianist himself. Only he is so focused on impressing everyone that, before he realises it, his show has transformed from the highbrow concert he hoped for into a spectacularly amusing catastrophe. 

To salvage his somewhat unsalvageable dignity, the pianist draws on his imagination and comes up with some rib-tickling and absurd results.

Thomas Monckton – (Performer and co-director) – The Pianist 

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Elitist social gatherings. They are to comic material as mud is to a hippo.  

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
If we were all hippos, then the director hippo (Sanna Silvenoinen) already had a crew of creative hippos in her pond (lighting hippo, music hippo, costume hippo, set design hippo) and had collaborated with those hippos as part of previous hippo performances. I joined the hippo pond from another pond after being invited to wallow in it by Sanna. I did so quite happily because even though it was a bit of a waddle over to the new pond, their pond did have quite a good reputation. 

How did you become interested in making performance?
I learned to juggle at about 8 years old. Through juggling I became more interested in circus skills and through circus I discovered clowning and through clowning I discovered physical comedy, and new wave clown. Quite recently I also discovered the hippopotamus Wikipedia page.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
It changes so much from piece to piece, but for the sake of simplicity, yes more or less. The only difference was working with Sanna as a director. I usually work with an object or scenario for a starting point and have a trick or physical skill I want to learn in mind. That fools me into physical training which I find helpful for relaxing my brain but I often never get the trick solid enough to perform. 

Sanna and I spent the beginning of rehearsals kind of machine-gunning ideas all over the place and then the remainder of the time trying to stitch them all together. It’s not a coherent process. 

Neither is my morning routine. Sometimes I have coffee directly after brushing my teeth. Not that it matters anyway because the toothpaste in our house isn’t minty, it’s salty so it doesn’t clash with coffee but it’s disgusting just on it’s own anyway. I can’t wait to finish the tube so I always put a LOT on my toothbrush. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
It changes depending on what the piece is, what style it is, and what my intentions are behind it. Mostly I just hope they like it. With The Pianist I wanted to create a sense of relief for an audience by making a show about someone failing spectacularly at living up to his own expectations.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I’m not sure if I’m that forethoughtful to come up with any strategy. I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a strategy about anything ever. I sometimes write a list before I go shopping but I usually forget to take it with me. 

The rehearsal process was basically coming up with ways of not doing what the pianist was trying to do but doing it in a way that was enjoyable to watch. I think what we ended up with is a wonderful turmoil of uplifting failures. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
It’s changing quite quickly. When I started it was definitely within a circus format. I created short skills based acts normally tightly glued to a piece of music. Now I am more interested in contributing to the progression of contemporary physical comedy. With The Pianist, it is as much classic clowning as it is contemporary circus and physical theatre. If it was an animal it would be a camel (not a hippo). Nowadays I’m aiming more at platypus type shows.

Assembly Roxy, Central 4 – 29 Aug 2016 (not 10, 15 & 22), 12.25pm (1.25 pm) 

Thomas said, “I thought it would be nice to use the old upright piano at my parents place in a show where the piano fell to pieces. I suggested a similar idea to Sanna Silvennoinen in conversation then later she came back to me having reimagined and extended the idea. 

The show changes slightly from audience to audience and from country to country. It also
changes sometimes when I forget the chronology of the show or if the technicians get bored and start improvising with the cues. Unfortunately, I have had to eliminate the standing double backflip I used to do because it was just too offensive to most audiences.

“The piano is temperamental in reality as well as in the show. I think it must be a method actor. And we have to tour with it.” 

Thomas Monckton is a Lecoq trained circus performer originally from New Zealand and based in France. His past shows include Moving Stationery (winner of Best of Fringe, Best in Theatre, and Stand Out Performer Awards at New Zealand Fringe 2012), Caterpillars (Best of Auckland Fringe 2015), Chameleon Demo (Best in Physical Theatre and Best in Innovation Awards at New Zealand Fringe 2015) and Only Bones v1.0 (Best is Physical Theatre Award and nominations for Best in Innovation and Stand Out Performer at New Zealand Fringe 2015). 

The Pianist was most recently seen in the UK at the Southbank Centre as part of London International Mime Festival (2015), and was nominated for the Total Theatre Award for Circus at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014. 

Thomas will also be performing his new show Only Bones with Kallo Collective in association with Aurora Nova at Summerhall from 3 – 28 August.

Sanna Silvennoinen is an artistic director at Circo Aereo, an international contemporary circus group based in Finland and France. Founded 1996 and currently one of the most active Finnish groups in terms of performing abroad, Circo Aereo is among the flagships of Finnish cultural exports, performing in around 30 countries. In the past few years, Circo Aereo's productions have been a major factor contributing to the rise of Finnish contemporary circus internationally.
From Start to Finnish is an annual showcase presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that represents the best in Finnish performing arts. 

Now in its 6th year, From Start to Finnish 2016 will also feature Carl Knif’s dance solo about emotional struggle Red at Dance Base, and political satire The Chicken Trial from ACE-Production at Pleasance Courtyard.

Running Time: 60 minutes | Suitable for ages 12+
Performed Thomas Monckton
Directed by Sanna Silvennoinen & Thomas Monckton
Sound design by Tuomas Norvio
Lighting Design by Juho Rahijärvi

Costume design by Kati Mantere
Production by Circo Aereo and Show Pony

Listings information
Assembly Roxy, Central, 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh EH8 9SU
4 – 29 Aug (not 10, 15 & 22), 12.25pm – 1.25pm 

No comments :

Post a Comment