Edinburgh Fringe 2019
An engaging fifty-minute journey charting the development or not (and it’s mostly “not”) of Ed’s relationship with “Rapunzel”.
Ed Zanders is distraught. “He’s not here, is he, Rachael”, he intones to his hard-pressed sound and lights person as he scans the audience in desperation. Ed’s ex is up at the Fringe doing a show but refuses to make contact with him. But Ed is determined to win back his love through his music. Yet how has it all come to this? What’s happened to cause Ed such angst?
So begins a fifty-minute journey charting the development or not (and it’s mostly “not”) of Ed’s relationship with “Rapunzel”, a nomme de plume serving to protect the innocent. It’s an amusing journey of how love grows that’s touched with pathos, particularly at the very expressive denouement.
Zanders is a convincing narrator, a raconteur in fact, possessed of an expressive voice and an ability to switch between the various characters he inhabits across the piece with ease. Accents are pretty much spot-on and he makes excellent use of the small stage space available, ensuring that he remains engaged with his audience and vice-versa.
Music, though, is the lubricant to this tale and Zander’s sublime skills as a pianist are obvious from the opening snatch from Rachmaninov through to the exquisitely expressive, evocatively emotive rendition of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major. That alone is worth the ticket money but Zander is equally at home playing Lloyd Webber as he is pop, jazz, ragtime and classical as he delivers a range as diverse as Schumann, Scott Joplin and Sarti. And Zander’s energetic yet, at times, reflective narrative is nicely supported with effective use of sound and lighting effects (from the aforementioned Rachael).
The inspiration for this very engaging hour came from an unlikely source. Remember back in 2017 when Luke Howard pushed a piano onto College Square, a public space in Bristol, and vowed to keep playing the thing in a bid to get his ex to return? No? Well, not many people do. The couple had only been together four months but Howard’s actions caused a mini-Twitter meltdown with people accusing him of being creepy rather than applying the description of romantic that Howard sought.
Writer Calum Finlay spotted this and was apparently inspired to write Piano Play, turning the real life into the surreal. Or should that be the other way around? Either way, this combination of sublime music and a surreal tale with that twist make it a show well worth seeking out. Definitely recommended viewing.