Hammerklavier is the name of Beethoven’s opus 106, one of his most technically complicated sonatas. It's also the title of Yasmina Reza's semi-autobiographical novel which has been translated into English and adapted for the stage in the form of a one-woman monologue.
Reza's close relationship with her father is the subject. And the difficult sonata, which he's less capable of taming as he gets closer to death, comes to represent his struggle to live - he insists on playing it though he stumbles and must restart again and again.
Reza's fascination with time, as explored in her play Life x 3, here takes a darker existentialist slant. She describes it as her enemy, musing on life as the elusive and fleeting moments between birth and death.
All of this is incredibly thought-provoking, but how does the novel translate into a piece of theatre? The lack of plot drive is a huge disadvantage, and although we feel we understand Reza's relationship with her father, other characters we're introduced to are sketchy. The mode of the piece remains nostalgic throughout, with little change of dynamic, and this allows the audience's attention to drift sporadically.
Nevertheless, Susie Lindeman's waifishly coquettish Yasmina is charming, despite the fact that her French accent hinders audibility. When she's interacting with her father, we believe she really sees him, but there's not enough variety in her portrayals of the other characters to make them any more lucid.
The red and black design by Persophia is striking if a little dated. Mark Kilmurry's direction and lighting design are both rather clunky. This is because, in an attempt to shape the text, there are breaks, marked with snap blackouts or slow fades and one too many strong spotlights to denote 'important moments'. All of which distracts from Lindeman's largely well-judged performance.
So, though Reza's writing is insightful and moving, there isn't enough tension or plot in this selective and meandering narrative - though well delivered - to highly recommend it.
- Hannah Kennedy