Suter Theatre, Nelson

21/10/2013 - 22/10/2013

Baycourt X-Space, Tauranga

24/10/2013 - 26/10/2013

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

22/04/2014 - 03/05/2014

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

09/05/2014 - 09/05/2014

Assembly, Roxy, Edinburgh, Scotland

12/08/2014 - 22/08/2014

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

07/03/2015 - 21/03/2015

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

08/04/2015 - 18/04/2015

Turner Centre, 43 Cobham Road, Kerikeri

23/04/2015 - 23/04/2015

Nelson Arts Festival 2013

Tauranga Arts Festival 2013

Edinburgh Fringe 2014


Production Details

At the peak of high society entertainment sits The Pianist’s pianist. Impeccable in every aspect he glides graciously through life never placing a foot out of step. He is, in a word: perfection. Or at least… that’s what he thinks. 

The Pianist (Thomas Monckton) is so focused on impressing everyone that before he realises it, his show has transformed from the highbrow concert he hoped for into the spectacularly amusing catastrophe that is The Pianist

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

Thomas Monckton is a circus artist born in New Zealand. He trained at New Zealand’s only circus school CircoArts and at the physical theatre school of Jacques Lecoq in Paris.

Thomas’ debut full-length solo show Moving Stationery has received a total of six awards including two times Stand Out Performer, and two times Best of Theatre as well as the overall festival prize. Moving Stationery was performed New York Theatre Clown festival in September 2012 and the show is invited to one of the biggest and most successful festivals in New Zealand; the 2013 International Buskers Festival.

Circo Aereo is an international contemporary circus group from Finland that is based in Finland and France but the troupe frequently performs around the world. Currently one of the most active Finnish groups in terms of performing abroad, Circo Aereo is among the flagships of Finnish cultural exports. Active since 1996, the group has visited several distinguished festivals and theatres in around 30 countries. Circo Aereo’s barrier-breaking and open approach to the various forms of the performing arts mesmerises and astonishes audiences throughout the world.

Nelson Arts Festival 2013

VENUE The Suter Theatre
DATES Mon 21 Oct 10am, Tue 22 Oct 6pm 
Age 8+
Full $25, Under 18 $15
Family $65 
(2 Adults, 2 Children)
Plus service fee 

Tauranga Arts Festival 2013

WHERE X-Space, Baycourt
Thursday 24th October, 06:00pm
Friday 25th October, 11:00am
Friday 25th October, 06:00pm
Saturday 26th October, 11:00am
TICKETS Adults $15 (TECT $12)
Child $10 (TECT $8)
Booking fees apply
Ages: 5+    

DURATION 60 mins (no interval) | 

“He would hold his own with the greats. Think Chaplin, Keaton and Marceau.” Gail Tresidder, Theatreview (Nelson)

The Pianist is an exciting new collaboration by New Zealander Thomas Monckton and the Finnish company, Circo Aereo. This hilarious work is centered on, in, under, and around one of the most magnificent of all musical instruments, the grand piano.

Engaging and energetic, Monckton plays the concert pianist whose recital is an absolute catastrophe right from the beginning. He is a man so focused on impressing everyone that before he realises it, his show has transformed from the highbrow concert he hoped for, into absolute bedlam.

Audiences, from the youngest to the oldest, shriek as delightful accidents and mishaps follow each other in rapid succession. As the lovable acrobat takes on the grand piano, everything that can go wrong goes wrong – hard and fast.

The Pianist is, simply put, a superb performance… he charms the spectators mere seconds into the show, and bombs them with side-splitting comedy and moments of astonishment through all of the sixty minutes.” Demari (Finland)

Children and adults are taken deep into their imaginations and wonderment as the grand piano takes on a life of its own, surprising and delighting the whole way through. A simple set up for a traditional piano recital on stage is Monckton’s playground of comical chaos and unexpected turns.

Since its premiere in Hameenlinna, Finland last September, it has been performed throughout the rest of Finland to sold out theatres (some selling out weeks before the show is to be performed), largely due to glowing reviews and word of mouth. Show Pony, as the NZ producers, brought The Pianist to the Nelson and Tauranga Festivals and received more glowing reviews from audiences in Aotearoa:

“Award winning actor Tom Monckton delivers his new contemporary circus piece with such precision, energy and comic talent it’s almost not enough to just watch him; I sit leaning forward in my seat, trying to soak up more… Monckton’s use of his body – from a student of L’Ecole Internationale du Théâtre Jacques Lecoq – is exquisite and enviable for any performer.” Gin Mabey, Theatreview (Tauranga)

Some may remember Monckton from his last solo show Moving Stationery in Wellington in 2012. Moving Stationery blew audiences away, resulting in winning ‘Best Theatre’, and the coveted ‘Best of Fringe’ Award at the NZ Fringe Festival 2012, and ‘Best Male Performer’ at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards the same year. The Pianist is a fitting follow up, showcasing Monckton’s extraordinary circus techniques in a captivating and hilarious theatre piece.

Monckton and Show Pony are excited to bring the work to Circa for it’s Wellington premiere, before it moves on to a North Island tour presenting in New Plymouth, Hamilton, Hawke’s Bay and Taupo.

“This is something absolutely hilarious! Silent comedy and skillful circus tricks at their very best.” Tarja Kilpeläinen (Finland)

Circa Two
22 April to 3 May
Tuesday-Saturday 7:00pm
Saturday matinee 2:00pm
Sunday matinee 2:00pm
Ticket Prices:  $35 adult / $28 students / beneficiaries / seniors / Friends of Circa / YHA + BBH $20 under 25s and industry $12 children
FAMILY pass: 2 adults and 2 kids = $80

Running time: approx 60 minutes (no interval)

Buy tickets through Circa Box Office 
Phone 04 801 7992  |  Email: 

Friday 9th May at 7.30pm
Playhouse Theatre, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014
12 – 22 August, 12 noon.
Assembly Roxy (Venue 139)

For more information on The Pianist, visit or 


7 March to 21 March
at 8pm

Live at Herald Theatre | Aotea Centre – Auckland Live
Wednesday 8 – Saturday 18 April 2015 
Full details & booking:
Upsurge Festival 2015

Venue The Turner Centre, Kerikeri
Date Thurs 23 April 6.30pm
Duration 60 mins no interval
Suitable for ages 8+ 

Early $25 | Full $29
Under 18 Early $15 | Full $19
Family $65 (2 Adults, 2 Children)
Plus Service Fees

Performer: Thomas Monkton
Producer: Adrianne Roberts
Assistant Producer: Bonnie Stanway
Finnish Producer: Circo Aereo
In Co-production with: Cirko – Centre for New Circus

Sound Design by Tuomas Norvio.
Lighting Design by Juho Rahijärvi.
Costume Design by Kati Mantere 
Piano Construction:  Iain Cooper
Technical Operation: Antony Goodin
NZ Marketing Design:  Edward Watson

Theatre , Physical , Musical ,

1 hr

Exceptionally skilled performance with an extra helping of panache

Review by Alan Scott 24th Apr 2015

The Bay of Islands Festival opened at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri on Thursday night with Thomas Monckton’s one man show. The Pianist has done the rounds already but Monckton shows no signs of flagging as he delights his Far North audience with his entrancing mix of comedy, clowning, mime and acrobatics. 

The Bay of Islands Festival is called Upsurge 2015 and it is rightly named, if the upsurge of laughter from the audience which washes over the auditorium and flows out into the street is anything to go by.

From the opening moments, when our concert pianist manoeuvres himself onto the stage through a small hole in the curtains, to the explosive ending when smoke pours from the piano, the audience is both captivated and amused. 

Reminiscent of the early silent comedy films, with echoes of numerous comedy characters and situations down the ages, The Pianist is a morality tale, really, about the best laid plans, and how human endeavour, thwarted at every turn, triumphs in the end. 

Here is a man, a sophisticated, cultured musician beset by a series of calamities. The chandelier is in the way, the piano cover is stuck, the music sheets are unruly, the stool is too high and the piano itself seems to have a life of its own. When one of the legs falls off it seems nothing can prevent the unfolding disaster from reaching its awful conclusion. 

Nothing, that is, except the pianist’s stoic resolve, ingenious reasoning and acrobatic skills, which extricate him from every misfortune. 

Monckton’s performance is exceptional. It requires the physical skills of a circus performer, the comedic sense of an entertainer and the theatricality of an actor all to combine and cohere in a seamless whole. 

Timing, expression, gesture, dexterity and physical strength must all come together to make the performance work, but the icing on the cake for the audience is that they must all come together to make everything seem like it is falling apart. 

It is a measure of the man that he achieves all that flawlessly and with an extra helping of panache.


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Bravura Recital

Review by Amanda Leo 12th Apr 2015

As a child, my parents very occasionally took me to the circus as a type of rare treat, which has resulted in much anticipation when going to watch any type of circus act in my adult life. My anticipation of a night full of magic wasn’t disappointed as I arrived at the foyer of the Herald Theatre for the opening night of The Pianist, created and performed by Taranakian Thomas Monckton with the international contemporary Finnish circus group Circo Aereo. Greeted by Arjuna De Simas-Oakes’ beautiful jazz piano accompaniment, we are put right in the mood for an evening of fun and beautiful music. 

We are greeted by a hanging chandelier and a beautiful grand piano, both which reek of possibilities for mishap. In The Pianist the humour arises from the disjunction between what the pianist is attempting to perform and what is actually being performed. Monckton has chosen an ingenious setting for such a parody of performance: a sort of classical piano recital with traditionally “highbrow” standards that the pianist attempts to follow. [More]


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Pianist hits right keys for laughs

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 10th Apr 2015

Kiwi performer Thomas Monckton is forging an international reputation with a style that has acrobatics, clowning and mime bouncing off each other in a wildly imaginative piece of absurdist comedy. 

The show sends up the protocols of a formal piano recital as it takes us on a journey from backstage to the seat of a grand piano. The distance may be short but it provides occasion for a never-ending parade of accidents, calamities and diversions and plenty of humour as the hapless piano player struggles to maintain a sense of dignity. [More]


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Entertaining and impressive in equal measure

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 10th Apr 2015

A minute into Thomas Monckton’s stunning solo performance, the kid sitting in front of me states emphatically, “This is great.” I couldn’t agree more. 

The full house, mostly kids with their parents, is ‘with’ Monckton from the start, laughing freely and totally swept up in this hapless disheveled character’s madcap world. 

Pre-show, in the foyer, excerpts from a 1920s short film created by Walt Disney, starring a very early black-and-white Mickey Mouse trying to tame and play a mischievous piano which has a mind of its own, sets the tone for The Pianist

While Monckton may have found his motivation from Mickey, and added his world-class clowning and circus techniques, kids who see this fantastic inventive show are more likely to compare Monckton’s extraordinary liquid moves with Michael Jackson’s, and his comic physicality and elastic facial expressions with Mr Bean’s.

The added bonus and highlight for me is the ‘Close Encounters of the Piano-Forte Kind’ at the climax of the show. While it has been difficult to see how this talented storyteller is going to navigate his way out of the hectic hour, the creative end is the perfect resolve. 

The design and construction team create the ideal playpen for Monckton, with Phil Halasz’ Chandelier providing a dazzling airborne sequence. Sound designer Tuomas Norvio’s audio track is nothing short of brilliant, with lyrical piano and guitar passages weaving in and out of the narrative seamlessly, punctuated by superbly timed sound effects.   

Directing duties are shared between Sanna Silvenoinen and Monckton, with the former giving the latter just the right mix of structure and creative license, meaning the hour flies by and we are left wanting more.   

I have two 11 year olds with me, Ella and Hannah, who are wholeheartedly entertained and impressed, in equal measure. Ella loves a bit of interaction and it’s fair to say our row ends up in the middle of a fun, high-octane music-score war. Happy kids everywhere. Hannah is one of NZ’s best gymnasts for her age and is awestruck by Monckton’s precision acrobatics atop the piano, which seem to defy gravity.

Moments in Monckton’s performance are like watching the mastery of a Cirque Du Soleil soloist with the glittery glamour replaced by gritty agility. 

This is one holiday show not to be missed. I hope there is a sequel in the pipeline, as I can’t wait to see what Thomas and his producers, Circo Aereo (from Finland and France) and Show Pony (Wellington) do next.


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Opposing characters in one body

Review by James McKinnon 08th Mar 2015

Theatreview already gave Thomas Monckton’s solo farce a five star review when it first ran at Circa in 2014; moreover, after Theatreview described Monckton as “world class” and claimed that The Pianist “could play anywhere in the world,” it did exactly that. Now, on the strength of its genius and its international portfolio of stellar reviews, The Pianist ‘s second run in Wellington is sure to prove popular.

So instead of informing the reader of whether it is a quality show (it is), I will focus on describing what those qualities are. What makes The Pianist, a play without any words and also lacking a conventional plot and characters, so enjoyable to so many people in so many places?

Although there is not a plot in the sense of ‘story’, the action is cleverly and carefully structured. Monckton breaks down the basic action of ‘man plays piano’ to show that this single action is actually a whole series of micro-actions. The pianist enters (attired in tux & tails, he lampoons the high culture image of the concert pianist – and along with it the notion of music as exalted culture). The pianist acknowledges his audience. The pianist prepares his sheet music. And finds his stool… and so on.

Monckton uses physical comedy, corporeal mime and acrobatics to discover and then develop the comic potential of each micro-action. Once he has seemingly exhausted the comic potential of one, something unpredictable happens, propelling us to the next micro-action.

We experience building tension when simple acts, like reaching for a sheet of paper, become increasingly complicated; then astonishment when the trajectory we think we see developing suddenly changes. The simple set – a piano, a chandelier, a curtain – frames Monckton and offers him a few extra opportunities for discovering comic action.

Monckton’s athletic and expressive skills are the engine driving this action. While we have a large repertoire of vague adjectives we use to describe performers as good (“Stunning!”) or bad (“Wooden”), it’s worth going past the clichés and examining what a “stunning” performance really entails (if not a taser).

First, look at Monckton’s balance. Like all of us, he’s always fighting against gravity, but whereas most of us choose to be as stable as possible, Monckton’s body is in precarious balance throughout the performance, which catches and holds the eye. He is always in the process of falling down, and always just catching himself, often only by leaping from one precarious position to another: now he is on one toe; now he is balanced on his hands, on top of a piano; now he is back on his feet – but hanging from them. Even when he stands still briefly, his lanky frame (accentuated by the slim-cut tuxedo) looks like it could fall down at the slightest breeze.

In addition to always being in precarious balance, Monckton always seems to be moving in several directions at once. The opposing tensions in Monckton’s body essentially take the place of the opposing will of different characters in a conventional play. Watch how his limbs, even when he is still, suggest a struggle between opposing forces within the body – even his spiky hair helps sustain this effect. In addition to an acrobat’s flexibility and strength, he has an exceptional ability to isolate individual muscle groups, which he can use to create the impression that one of his legs is trying to walk away from the rest of his body, among other effects.

An acrobat can do all these things, but acrobats do not make us feel anything other than amazement at their technical prowess. What elevates this performance above circus contortionism and makes it theatre is that Monckton directs all these physical skills to an expressive effect. He makes us feel for the hapless pianist. To do this, he makes sure his face and eyes are always as engaged and active as the rest of his body.

The score helps a great deal – The Pianist resembles a silent film in many regards – as does the lighting, but in this aspect as in the rest of the show, Monckton does the heavy lifting.

The Pianist offers much more to discuss about what makes an actor’s performance enjoyable, and since the play is wordless, it is possible to concentrate on these questions without fear of missing any plot-critical information. If you get a chance to see it, you can of course just sit back and enjoy the ride, but for those who are seeing it a second time, or who take particular interest in thinking about what makes live performance work, it is offers a unique opportunity to think about exactly what makes the ride so much fun.


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Magic touch has huge appeal

Review by Dione Joseph 22nd Aug 2014

There comes a point in the fringe festival when you can become quite cynical. Desperate in fact. And that’s when I start bargaining with the theatre gods to save me.

Luckily they seem to be in good humour. Because after a series of less-than-average theatre viewing I go to see The Pianist.

And huge thanks gods because Thomas Monckton and Circo Aereo are a match made in theatrical heaven. Forget the high art and a posh society recital for the elite. Here there is no crack of knuckles, no delicate arrangement of stool and clever posturing – in this space things are not what they seem. In fact it’s just all a bit crazy. Deliciously so. 

Flowers bloom from the belly of the grand piano, spotlights dance around the space and are naturally chased, shoes get trapped in chandeliers, violence erupts beneath the seemingly innocuous piano cloth and of course there’s our pianist himself.

Dressed in impeccable tails, this tousled haired young man will master the instrument – or will forfeit his life (and more accurately, his dignity) in the process. The delight of The Pianist is that it takes the exclusive concert for those with a distinct appreciation and brings it into the realm of extraordinary play where bodies writhe, unexpected gaps open and a proliferation of multiple participants raise a cacophony – all without saying a word.   

This is non-verbal physical theatre at its best. Succeeding on multiple levels, Monckton melds mime, clowning, circus and even magic to create a contemporary work that has huge appeal to audiences of all ages. Children and adults will find much to delight them in this hour where the absurd is the norm, and the inexplicable should be expected – without question or reason.   

The carcass of the grand piano is a masterpiece in its own right and the set and design should be applauded for having to reconstruct this very essential and important character right here in Edinburgh for the show. In fact the involvement of the production team (and occasionally the audience) are what makes this show a particularly cohesive piece of work where we are reminded that lights and sound aren’t just pretty special effects but can be devilishly annoying – especially for someone like a concert pianist with a penchant for exacting expectations. 

While this may not be theatre with an agenda – seeking to provoke or provide meaning – it is an excellent reminder of why we need performance making and makers that rise above politics and polemics; who have the magic touch to make their audiences laugh unashamedly, at ourselves and our world. 



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Bravo Maestro!

Review by Gail Pittaway 10th May 2014

Not many unknown (to Hamilton) performers make it past the backdrop curtain and onto the stage with their audience already enthralled, but Thomas Monckton’s first performance of The Pianist here has the full house utterly captivated, roaring with laughter, simply watching him not being able to get onstage and into the spotlight. It’s the simplest of gags – the hands poking at the curtain from behind – and he spins it even to the curtain call at the end of one hour of total physical genius. 

There’s an old scriptwriting exercise that writing classes are often given, to write down all the things that can go wrong for a person getting up in the morning and off to work. This show takes that idea to hilarious extremes. It’s a solo show developed out of the classical music repertoire, where the pianist in formal tails comes onstage modestly, plays like one possessed then leaves angelically, with no evidence of the sheer tenacity, drive and genius that has brought him, in this case, to that moment. This in itself is pretty funny if you think about it, but the gestures and motifs of such conventions are well established.

Here it’s all up-hill work for the pianist: he can’t get onstage; when he does, his score malfunctions; the chandelier is dangerously low; the piano refuses to behave as it should and he has to perform acrobatics to get a suitable stool; the lighting is all wrong; the audience won’t behave nicely … Crisis after crisis ensues, while the pianist strains to maintain the dignity, elegance and calm which befit a musical genius.

He also keeps being distracted by new opportunities to perform and play to the audience with some wonderful moments of whimsy, like a hand ballet on the twirling piano stool as he tries to adjust its height, a trapeze act with the chandelier, and the most brilliant sustained knee puppetry work ever committed on a grand piano, under the cover.

Words fail me, even attempting to describe some of the action; it is so inventive and weird, so cleverly, sadly funny. 

Monckton’s clowning gives new life to mime school devices such as wall definition and body isolation; in fact it takes such techniques and climbs in and around them. His physical strength and dexterity are phenomenal and he takes many huge risks and literal tumbles in the course of the show, then goofs it up with some interaction with the audience – a bit of moon walking for the boy whose baseball hat he stole; climbing over the seats to throw musical scores at the lighting box for not marking the spotlight.  Throughout all the disasters he tries to maintain an insouciance, to play down the horror, and this only adds to the comedy.

In this case the show is all about how the show couldn’t go on and it’s masterful. Bravo Maestro!


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Strikes all the funny notes

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 24th Apr 2014

I doubt very much that you’ll see, in fact I am prepared to bet on it, a funnier show this year than The Pianist.

Not a word is spoken and there’s precious little piano playing but The Pianist is continuous laughter for an hour from the moment this manic musician burrows his way through the curtains to get onto the stage.

Once on stage and ready to perform he remembers he has left his music behind. As with any good physical comedian there is a war with objects that distract him from his goal. A chandelier, a rickety piano, a piano stool, and a few loose pages of music all conspire to either send him into a panic or a comic dance or a bull fight or feats of hilarious acrobatic comedy.

He performs an underarm dance with the sheets of music, a finger ballet on the piano stool and acts of herculean strength getting the piano into the spotlight which his lighting operator keeps moving about in revenge for his stool being pinched out of the lighting box. In fact the pianist ends up with a missile war with his lighting operator (Antony Goodin).

This is physical comedy at its very best, on a par with the great silent movies of Chaplin, Keaton and others.  Thomas Monckton is a comic genius. Miss him at you peril. Oh, it’s the school holidays and youngsters will love it too.


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A sublimely extraordinary tour-de-catastrophe

Review by John Smythe 23rd Apr 2014

The concert pianist is a brilliant persona to bring into the realm of clowning, acrobatics and other circus genres. His default air of cultured superiority and sophistication just aches to be compromised by a clown’s compulsion to stuff it up in the process of pursuing excellence – which of course involves a whole new level of excellence.

As I and others have said before, Thomas Monckton is world class. The Pianist could play anywhere in the world, in large or small venues, and bring pleasure to anyone with a pulse, be they arts festival aficionados, habitual theatre-goers or people off the street looking for a good time.

What is that fabric the curtains and piano cover are made of? It takes on a life of its own with Monckton behind or beneath it. It even manifests its own little creatures in loving embraces or having a knockdown fight. Talk about ‘shape-shifters’!  

Even a stack of musical scores affords the opportunity to prove inanimate objects can perform with remarkable skill. Then there’s the wine: a window into an inner self that threatens to externalise itself. As for the chandelier, it is both an obstacle to be navigated and a means of achieving one’s goal.

The piano itself is the main event: a Carl Bechstein creation no less (modified by Iain Cooper) which, despite a dodgy leg and idiosyncratic keyboard lid, emits a beautiful sound when at last it is played. As for the piano stool …

While I don’t wish to detail the whys and wherefores, it can be said that Monckton’s Pianist is chronically incapable of multi-tasking and if there is a long way to do any one thing, he will go that way. Eventually. And there lies the fun.

The acrobatic skills he brings to his clowning elevate this show from the sublime to the extraordinary. Added to that, his interaction with his hard-working technical operator – Antony Goodin – reveals a stroppy flipside, his connection with the audience is a delight, and his ability to spontaneously incorporate whatever may happen at any given moment in the audience or outside in hearing range add even more to our pleasure.

It’s only on until the end of next week in Wellington, then it visits New Plymouth, Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupo. Don’t delay in booking your seats: The Pianist is a tour-de-catastrophe you don’t want to miss.


Editor April 23rd, 2014

This just in direct from Kati Mantere the costume designer in Finland (in response to Thom's enquiry as to what the fabric is): 

"Hi, Thom! I call it lycra velvet. I don't remember exactly, but something like 90% polyester and 10% Lycra. It's normally used for clothes. It's nice that someone is interested in that, because I spend hours to think about and  to find the right fabric. Have a nice time there!"

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Sublime comedy in getting everything so perfectly wrong

Review by Uther Dean 23rd Apr 2014

Thom Monckton’s latest solo silent work of circus and clown, The Pianist,has a lot to live up to. His previous show, Moving Stationery, was the big sell-out hit of the 2012 Wellington Fringe, sweeping the awards and going on to nab the Lecoq trained Monckton a Best Actor gong at that year’s Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards.

Moving Stationary was exemplary clowning: hilarious from start to end, endlessly physical, a jaw-droppingly wonderful hour of theatre. With that show, Monckton set himself a seemingly impossibly high bar for all his future output.

Luckily, The Pianist not only matches that bar, it vaults it completely. This is show is somehow more hilarious, more amazingly physical, it is another jaw-droppingly wonderful hour of theatre. 

The game is the same as Stationary: we get to watch an increasingly frazzled man fail more and more spectacularly at regular everyday tasks. This time the struggle is much more of a performative one: we bear witness to the titular pianist attempting a recital for us. And, of course, every single possible thing that could make his life harder, from the chandelier hanging just a bit too low to the oddly unforgiving curtains through which he struggles to emerge to the piano, which is saturated with such a patina of challenges and problems that it becomes almost a character in and of itself.

That we are present this time – we are the pianist’s audience as well as The Pianist‘s audience – adds a level of comic tension to the work that Monckton masterfully manipulates throughout, sometimes clambering through us, creating a beautiful and spontaneous sense that anything can happen. Even the technical operator himself is not safe, becoming another of the malevolent forces against which Monckton struggles. 

There is something oddly satisfying about watching someone really work on stage; really put their back into it. Monckton is shiny with sweat by the ten minute mark and that’s only the beginning of his exertions. Watching someone so physically competent and so well-trained playing at such clumsiness and awkwardness borders on the sublimely delightful.

Monckton’s pianist manages to get everything so perfectly wrong that, on the opening night, the laughter was constant and rounds of applause climbed into double digits. Whether he be doing something as grand as falling off a piano or swinging from a chandelier or as small as dropping his score, each moment is a sublimely machined moment of comedy perfection.

To go into more detail of the goings-on of this hour of clowning would be to spoil the joy of their surprise but know that no comic opportunity is left unmined in this superlative work. I cannot think of a single person who would not immediately fall in love with The Pianist. Highly recommended.


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A performer to behold

Review by Gin Mabey 26th Oct 2013

A man with crazy hair and jittering body scrambles to a mirror, powders his face and disappears again. Next time we see him it is in the shape of various body parts trying to push through a purple velvet curtain – the first of many obstacles our electrically nervy Pianist faces. Perhaps it was due to the two rows of giggling primary school children down front, but I feel as though my inner child has been awakened and delighted.

Award winning actor Tom Monckton delivers his new contemporary circus piece with such precision, energy and comic talent it’s almost not enough to just watch him; I sit leaning forward in my seat, trying to soak up more.

In earnest, the pianist walks forward, his sheet music under his arm, he should be starting a modest piano performance any minute… but it all seems to go wrong, obstacle after obstacle. Our nimble-bodied pianist tries so hard to impress us despite his frustration, he smiles at us apologetically when something goes wrong and the huffing of his nervous laughter is a delicious, natural sound effect.

An example of his surroundings betraying him is when the chandelier … [spoiler averted]. He tries and tries again, with hilarious consequences …

One of the sheer brilliant aspects of the show is the way he makes use of the velvet sheet draped over the piano. He crawls beneath it and uses his knees to perform a show-down ending with a smoking gun (the kids down front absolutely roar at this). It is wonderful to see such innovation and playfulness that a whole range of ages and backgrounds can enjoy. Elements of magic pop up every now and then to magnificent effect: he disappears with only the billowing of a sheet, to appear again in a different costume, from beneath his piano. 

The Pianist becomes tired of his own game at points, sulkily repeating his sequence with doleful glances to the audience; he does so with hilarious animation of the face.

Monckton’s use of his body – from a student of L’Ecole Internationale du Théâtre Jacques Lecoq – is exquisite and enviable for any performer. He shows off his acrobatic skill as he gets into a real bind …  

The piano itself is a site of discovery for the pianist: he dissects it, dismantles it, and at points caresses it, with an insightful narration from the three year old next to me: “He loves his piano!”

Towards the end of the show, the piano starts to smoke and explode; it makes ominous sounds as smoke billows from within. When the pianist opens the top of the instrument, he is as surprised as we are at what is there – and under a gorgeous ray of broken light, he plays the fire-lit, smoke-surrounded, garden piano.

Thomas Monckton is a performer to behold. His show is a feast I would love to devour again and again.


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A real treat

Review by Gail Tresidder 22nd Oct 2013

Making people laugh is a wonderful gift.  Thomas Monckton, with his versatile expressive face, rubber legs and flexible body combining with split-second timing and a sense of the ridiculous that borders on genius, is a clown of class. 

He would hold his own with the great. Think Chaplin, Keaton and Marceau.

From the start, some wonderfully silly business with the backdrop and piano and stool covers has this audience convulsed.  He falls … drops … juggles … twirls his hands …  He is a toreador – very slick. He gets progressively more flustered, his hair is wild, his pink bow-tie is askew and every time things go wrong he flicks his tail-coat, hoping to appear nonchalant.  This is very funny and fools no-one! 

There is great nonsense with the spotlight … and the low-hanging chandelier is a major impediment.  It does dual service as a piece of apparatus and Monckton wows with his agility …

There are more flexible goings-on with the piano stool … then a heart-stilling moment when he jumps from the stage floor to the top of the piano … And throughout, lots of laughter; the kind that comes from deep in the gut. Also sweet moments: a tiny scrap of music, carefully placed on the music stand to match the few little keys the pianist had managed to access, being one of them. 

The grand piano is most unusual and comes apart in the strangest places … It smokes, it blooms … and, after nearly an hour of mayhem, our pianist finally sits down and, with the lightest of touches, plays very well indeed.  

Backing sound is integral and is excellent throughout.  All in all, this is a top class production.  Thomas Monckton is a real treat. May he continue to delight.


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