Unlike the lofty production values of Will Pickvance’s Anatomy of the Piano (i.e. the use of a projector to show off his doodles), the pianist’s latest show bears more in common with his Alchemy of the Piano from 2014, stripped back to just the man, his piano, and his stories. Pianomorphosis has Pickvance regale us with biographical anecdotes, with one hand always ambling through the bass notes of his next ditty, seated in the round of Summerhall’s amphitheatre-like Anatomy Lecture Theatre.
And what suitable surroundings: walking into the venue’s strikingly Victorian interior, lit only by one spot above and a lamp by the piano, you get the feeling this could be where Pickvance hangs out, playing into the night, alone with the ivories. “The piano is my better half,” he says, drolly. He’s always seemed a man out of time, unhurried by the world. Fitting, then, that we’re straight-backed on these puritanical lecture benches, listening to a man tell whimsical, timeless tales by lamplight.
The eminent pianarchist plays with a casual virtuosity, impishly, almost distractedly, with style, genre and tradition challenged and deconstructed without effort. He takes us from his youth, framed by his own imminent fatherhood, through to his fabled residency at Skibo Castle and run-ins with celebs, playing all the while. At times cheerfully maudlin, at others thigh-slappingly funny, Pickvance holds the room without even trying; while there’s little innovation here from his earlier shows, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?