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Review: The Argus by Kirsty Levett : Sarah Nicolls’ Moments of Weightlessness

Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, Church Street, Wednesday December 10 (First published Thursday 11 December 2014 in The Critic)

Sarah Nicolls_Moments_Argus_credit Tony Wood

Combining a narrative of motherhood with groundbreaking experiments in piano playing, Sarah Nicolls has created a masterpiece of performance art.

Light-hearted and delicate though never glib, Moments of Weightlessness had much to convey with regards to a person’s complete immersion into their experiences.  The inside-out piano was an Erard straight-strung grand, upturned to meet the keys at a 90-degree angle.  With its extraordinary, complicated anatomy confronting the audience, Nicolls played a soundtrack of her own composition that was contemporary and innovative without sacrificing the generous, arching drama of classical style.

With the aid of a crank, the instrument was swiftly rotated. Imagine Chopin – there are no instantly recognisable female precedents – lying on the floor, playing Ballade In G Minor sideways with his leg in the air to reach the pedal, occasionally springing up to meet a child’s constant needs.  The depiction of the absurdity to be found in combining the roles of pianist and mother could not have been delivered with more acuity than it was in Nicolls’ physical work.

The personal narrative was one striking feature. The transformation of piano from percussion to string instrument, from imposing musical apparatus to child’s plaything created something special indeed.