Pros: Extremely compelling use of sound, tone and space.
Cons: I was confused throughout. There was not enough story-line for me to make sense of what was going on and I found this unsatisfying.
Story Of A Night Pianist is a weird wander around the quiet area of Mudchute at nightfall, followed by an ethereal encounter in The Space Theatre. It’s a dance piece, although probably like no dance you’d ever expect.
As soon as you’re let in to the auditorium (a very charming conversion which feels more like a church hall) you’re told to ‘Follow The Violinist’. She appears promptly and leaves through a side door. This starts the first section of the performance where the violinist takes you on a loop of the streets around the theatre and weaves back in. From the moment you walk outside, you start to see dancers in trees, on railings, sprawled over playground furniture, dangling, twisting, grasping and undulating around every urban feature. We’ve been told at the start to stay behind the violinist for the best view, but we have the freedom to go where we choose. I like this aspect because it allows you to choose your relationship with each performer – and I find out later, their movement does respond to what you do as an audience member.
Let me tell you a little about Mudchute. The area is basically converted industrial docklands crammed with very smart new-build blocks. It’s massively residential: the key locations are the waterside and the parkland rather than pubs or clubs. It’s an eerily quiet area in general. And violins are loud. Within moments of approaching an area the faces of small children are pressed against windows, adults are peering out of doors and there’s much interest. This is a lovely response, although this show runs for several nights in a row and there were some frustrated pedestrians and locals. This included one very unhappy gentleman shouting ‘get them out of my effing front garden’. Thankfully there were plenty of stewards to smooth things over.
Amongst the interactions with audiences and street furniture there were set pieces of compelling dance. All this wove together and led back to the hall for the second part of the show. We were ushered by the dancers to sit. Still in character, they performed a series of duos followed by a collective piece.
Evocative – certainly. Mysterious – definitely. Confusing – totally. I was pleasantly surprised several times by the experience but I had no idea what was going on. I know that for contemporary dance, there are different expectations (and narrative isn’t one of them) but I had nothing to hold on to. There were so many movers I didn’t know who to watch to prise a story line out of. From the set pieces of choreography I could glean certain interpersonal relationships – but I had no idea what they meant. Story of a Night Pianist says nothing to me, especially as we were following a violinist for most of it.
The program charts the history of the work’s development. The short explanation at the start was practical about being safe and who to follow. Interestingly, my friend saw in it another story (The Death of the Muse) and by reading this storyline in to the show it had more sense and meaning. For me, trying to understand what was happening (and failing), my confusion never abated. The show was pleasant to watch but didn’t elicit much from me. Perhaps I rely on a sense of meaning too much or don’t understand the conventions of dance. It will stick in my mind because there was very clever setting, tone and audience management. However, without context or anyone to relate to, I found myself lost.
Producer: Bricolage Dance Movement
Choreographer: Anna Buonomo
Box Office: 020 7515 7799
Booking Link: https://space.org.uk/event-booking/?event=StoryofaNightPianist
Booking Until: 1st September 2013