First Piano on the Moon - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Written and performed but the incredible Will Pickvance “First Piano on the Moon” is an all-ages show centered around his passion for piano playing and his joy at breaking the mould and inspiring – nay, insisting - others to do the same. The stage is set with a piano, some pale coloured screens which take projected pencil line drawings, and his backpack. It seems there is nothing Will cannot do with a piano – he really can play Maple Leaf Rag while upside down. He shows us how if you only have one hand you can play the piano with a roll of gaffa tape; And of course, he can play a tune when the sheet music is the wrong way around.
“First Piano on the Moon” is a narrative about a young Will who doesn’t really concentrate at school but can perform marvellous tricks (his words) on the piano. He receives an invitation to play piano in Salzburg to honour Mozart’s birthday. This is such a brilliant story that moves through time and space and about how “real genius always welcomes the new” (The Scotsman). Incredibly, the young pianists are all staying in Mozart’s Gerbutzhaus and Will teaches us this German word for birthplace. Will explains how Mozart was hearing music all the time and how his era was different to ours. He beautifully captures the wonder he feels at seeing the instruments Mozart played where sounds came from Mozart’s brain into his fingers and back into his ears again.
He cannot sleep and that night, as he explores the halls and salons of this special place, he meets the ghost of Mozart. This cultural clash par excellence results in a sharing of musical styles – most of which are completely new to Mozart! What is jazz, blues or swing to a man of the 1700s? Audaciously Will thinks he can teach Mozart a thing or two. And into the wee hours the two – one trickster, one genius – share tricks and skills, introducing and reworking some classic tunes as well as theme tunes from “Bluey” and “Super Mario”. Pickvance has an onstage assistant to play Mozart and any of the other important characters in the story.
There’s a telling admission on Will’s website – “When I was at school, I noticed that pianos were often locked, or stowed away under some dust cover, out of bounds. Why would you lock up a piano? Why would you prevent people from making them sing (or scream). The forbidden piano I recall best was one in Salzburg. In fairness, it was Mozart’s actual piano. But to stop people playing it full stop. What? Banned so that future generations may also be banned from playing it? Forget that. I needed to connect with the great composer. I was thrown out the museum by security after a few bars of Rondo alla Turca. Growing up, piano was my thing. I just loved it. But even at a young age I felt suppressed by attitudes, snobbery, expectation. These felt like just other ways in which the piano was locked up.”
This light-hearted work has such integrity. It is made with care for its young audiences and is incredibly entertaining. Will Pickvance and team share the power of music in a tangible and artful way. It will leave you breathless with excitement and I guarantee you will never hear the tune “Happy Birthday” in the same way again.