Anna Goldsworthy’s memoir of her “awakening” as a concert pianist, recounting her life growing up learning piano under the guidance of her Russian piano teacher (who is on the Liszt list) is a critically acclaimed book released in 2009.
Piano Lessons is the live enactment of this memoir. Part play, part classical concert, the audience is guided through Goldsworthy’s experiences, discovering what it means to connect with and have a passion for music, in particular the classical masters.
Goldsworthy is joined by Helen Howard as her blunt, yet passionate piano teacher, Mrs Sivan, who fills the character with a determination and frank worship of classical music and the connection between pianist, piano and audience. Howard is a strong thread through the story that never falters (even with a medical emergency in the audience pausing the show for a good 15 minutes or so). She brings an endearing warmth and genuine care for her pupil that allows the audience to understand the strong bonds of friendship that develops between the two women.
[pull_left]It is a treat to enjoy what seems like a special concert developed with an intimacy that only cabaret can provide[/pull_left]
Howard is a strong foundation for Goldsworthy to lean upon, whose acting is not particularly strong but echoes an honesty and genuine insight into her story. Goldsworthy speaks directly to the audience and to Mrs Sivan recounting stories from age 8, which provides a sort of “documentary” feel to the story and forgives any dramatic weakness.
I am by no means an expert in classical piano, but Goldsworthy’s abilities with this instrument and the immense repertoire covered (all by heart, with no evident reading of sheet music) brings a reality and absolute joy to the piece. The grand piano takes centre stage and is certainly a third character; a twin to Goldsworthy that sits solidly and reliably as she tells her story. It is a treat to enjoy what seems like a special concert developed with an intimacy that only cabaret can provide. The drive and hard work that has gone into Goldsworthy’s career is refreshing: there’s no magical-waking-up-as-a-child-prodigy, and her hours and hours of endless practice are present at all times.
Director and dramaturg, Michael Futcher tightens the piece to flow smoothly, and although about 15 minutes could be shaved from the story, the piece is balanced with emotional highs, laughter and even a sense of teenage angst (when appropriate). A stunning choice for classical music lovers and anyone who has dreamed of following their passion.