It’s not everyday you walk into the theatre to be welcomed with a sheet of music, a pencil, and an apple. But the night of “Concerto” was no typical piece of theatre. The production of ‘Concerto’, by Michael Pinchbeck, was created to ‘take you on a journey, and bring you back home again’: and boy, it really lived up to its promise!
Before the show began, the audience got to watch an ‘overture’ created by MA Contemporary Performance Practice students in the foyer of the New Adelphi Theatre. The students had been working with Pinchbeck to create small but thought-provoking performance pieces that would introduce the evening’s core themes. It was beautifully performed and really worked as a curtain-raiser for the show.
Mark Hawkhead, Ryan O’Shea and Katt Perry were the main trio bringing the production to life, and all three of them were incredibly talented. Their voices were bold and hypnotic; the story was told through strong symbolism, repetitive speech and careful juxtaposition, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single bit. I wasn’t expecting interactions with the audience, but when Perry would indicate the audience to hold their given pencil like a conductor’s baton or even bite into an apple, everyone did so without question, which I believe came from how confident and engaging the trio’s performances were.
‘Concerto’ told the story of Paul Wittgenstein, a pianist who lost his right arm in the First World War and alongside his story, we learn of Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand who lost his right arm to tuberculosis in prison. The entire production follows these stories in history, exploring the legacy of war and the healing power of music.
Pinchbeck himself, took inspiration during the creative process from a scene in the TV series M*A*S*H, in which a soldier says: “Don’t you see? Your hand may be stilled, but your gift cannot be silenced if you refuse to let it be” – this quote was given new life within ‘Concerto’ to illustrate the importance of carrying on despite hardships. The production makes you reflect on the horrors and sadness of the First World War, echoing today’s political unrest, but shows the good that comes from resilience, self-belief and tenacity.
‘Concerto’ also reminded me of the fascinating storytelling performers can induce purely from speech and sound. The production’s set and costume only highlighted the necessary points of the story; everything else came from the performer’s mouths and the music. Pinchbeck didn’t need to spell everything out with colours, visuals and aesthetics and I found that incredibly clever.
The performance ended with concert pianist Nicholas McCarthy, born without his right hand, playing Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major – the piece written for Wittgenstein back in 1930. Performed beautifully, it actually gave me goosebumps.
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