IF YOU ARE in need of a fantastic little pick-me-up that is as much about the glory and versatility of the piano as it is about deadpan British humour delivered by two completely delightful pub pianists, look no further. Worbey and Farrell have wowed the international entertainment circuit and their gobsmacking trick takes the piano duet to levels you may never have dared to think possible.
There’s a beautiful little vignette in Alan Bleasdale’s Oliver Twist which explains Franz Schubert’s penchants for writing complicated duets: he was an ugly lonely man and his duets written as teaching tools necessitated physical contact between him and his students. And Worbey and Farrell push this idea to its hilt.
The instrument – or as they refer to it, the “machine” – of the piano has many nooks and devices that can lend it to all kinds of humorous play, ambiguities and even a swarm of miscreant spiders. At times in this 90 minute show, you may expect the piano itself to get up and dance on its hind legs, and at other times, you may expect it to slam its lid shut in utter exasperation.
But it does neither, and Worbey and Farrell tickle the ivories in ways that mess gorgeously with your head. If you think of duets, you think of two pianists, snugly side by side on a piano stool, one commandeering the high notes and the other, the lows. And never the twain shall meet. With Worbey and Farrell, arms and legs and their respective ownership protocols are tossed to the wind, and as you watch the differently sleeved arms interleaving with one another, you feel your head begin to spin.
The music is fabulous – if sometimes a little too bangy – but the ideology behind the work enables a simple piano to turn into a full orchestra. And armed with a live camera, you get the full dizzying impact and the likes of Scott Joplin, Liberace and George Gershwin, Queen and much film music that you will recognise in its first few bars come alive with insane charisma that will get your feet tapping and your mouth screaming ‘tequila!’ at the appropriate moment.
If you think of the tones and shades of colour that a piano can produce at the pressing of a button, as being something like a box of crayons, you will understand the madcap diversity these two pianists bring. Sometimes, however, it feels like they’re drawing with all the crayons at the same time.
But it’s not only about tricks and foursomes. The repartee offered by Worbey and Farrell will remind you of what it was like to have the BBC on South African radio. They will leave a taste of Victor Borge, Spike Jones and the City Slickers in your heart and memory as they will even make you think of the dexterity of a performer of the ilk of the marvellous Danny Kaye. They’re lovely on the eye and quick on the tongue and you feel utterly spoiled at the end of the show. It’s a delight!
- Rhapsody is written and performed by Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell and stage managed by Willie van Staden, at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino Theatre complex in Fourways until 17 November.