Sonata Movements, Blue Elephant Theatre 25 April

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Picture from dulwichonview

So this is a sonata made from four movements which combine texts with different pieces of piano music.  At the post-show discussion,  the extravagantly gifted An-Ting Chang, pianist and instigator of the project, explained how she had been frustrated at the way classical music was cut up and used in plays, and she had wanted to find something better.

I was interested in seeing how the thing would work.  Would the actors speak at the same time as the music or in-between?  Would it be like melodrama?  In fact, a wide variety of things happened, including the piano being used as a prop in many different ways and a trill in Schubert’s D960 sonata representing the memory of a doorbell.

I felt that during the first three movements (Abortive, Caryl Churchill/Schubert; Other People’s Gardens, Kenneth Emson/Chopin; Portrait of a Lady, T.S. Eliot/Prokofiev and Chopin) what was happening for me was that the music was creating emotion by conditioned reflex and the plays were merely illustrating it.

The final movement  (Swan Song, Chekhov/Beethoven) was different and not just because we had a writer on the same level as the composers.  The way the play summed up the themes of isolation in someone at the end of his life and recapitulated pieces of Pushkin and Shakespeare in the same way the performance as a whole held within itself the separate plays and pieces of music–and at the end the old actor’s eyes, his ancient glittering eyes, were gay!–gave me a real sensory overload of delight.

Very definitely one to see, and it will be interesting to see what AT ConcertTheatre does next.

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