Two Pianos Four Hands at the Comedy Theatre
Ever had to frantically play a C-major scale whilst racing against the tick, tick, tick, of a metronome? Or had to inveigle your offspring into practising Bach instead of their PlayStation technique? Then Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt's comedy Two Pianos Four Hands will, if you'll pardon the pun, strike a familiar chord.
Beautifully observed, and featuring some hilarious performances by the authors, Two Pianos takes you through the pleasures and pain of teaching, being taught, and performing at the pianoforte.
Messrs Dykstra and Greenblatt originated this show - reputedly semi-autobiographical - a few years back in their native Canada. It proved to be such a huge hit there, and subsequently off-Broadway, that the two comics and their back-to-back Steinways have now been imported into the West End, to be directed by Jeremy Sams.
Starting with that unnerving moment when a five year-old first suspiciously prods a key, Two Pianos delves into the often antagonistic pupil-teacher relationship, with its daft mnemonics, outrageous bullying, and idiosyncratic coaching methods.
We witness the barking-mad Mr Scarlotti who believes pupils should play one-handed arpeggios simply 'because it impresses the chicks'. And a parent who deals with a potential quitter by calling up the piano teacher, announcing, 'My son would like a word with you,' and thrusting the receiver into the unfortunate youth's hand.
While there is mirth in this, Dykstra and Greenblatt are at pains to point out the heartache frequently experienced by these keyboard novices: the failed exams, the way parent-child relationships suffer in the pursuit of 'culture', the one-upmanship of fellow students, and the final, agonising realisation that you'll never be the next Richard Clayderman, let alone another Vladimir Horowitz.
Thus Two Pianos eventually asks, 'what future for the 17-year-old piano nerd who can't make the grade as a concert pianist?'. The answer, it seems, is a career playing bars and being accosted by drunks. Or the hell of teaching elementary tunes to bored middle-class housewives.
Dykstra and Greenblatt aren't Carnegie Hall material themselves, but they do tinkle away at some marvellous baroque, classic, and modern pieces on Francis O'Connor's circular stage set: Bach, Mozart, some Grieg, Chopin, and an energetic closing rendition of Scott Joplin's 'Maple Leaf Rag'.
These musical duologues in themselves make for an entertaining evening. Add the plethora of witty sketches in between, and you've got a winner.