The final show on December 10th was a great success. We had an audience of 106, lots of press coverage, a great review in the local paper (see REVIEW
) and genuinely heartfelt and generous comments from audience members, both on the night and subsequently (see below).
The whole process of this project was really quite extraordinary and certainly for me lived up to the aims of the project overall: to consider how musical development could benefit from theatrical processes and also how I, as an artist, could develop my music by contextualising it in a theatrical way.
1. Musically, there were many opportunities for development and these came in both working out how the music would tell a story of its own and how the music might develop to support the stories I was telling more literally. I was most encouraged by the fact that my music, which could be considered experimental or abstract, was immediately coherent and communicative to people, including the audience, and I think learning and understanding more about repetition and simplicity was fundamental to this. Also simply doing it and learning to trust it.
2. I needed to grapple with the layering of theatre – how image, text, sound and movement can send messages and how often less is more. I had to learn this repeatedly until I began to trust that actually showing an idea might be enough for people to have the resonance of an idea themselves, to let audiences work with their own imaginations. On a deep level I had to think about representing ideas and how these could hang together.
3. I needed to learn specific skills, which I hadn’t studied before. Movement was probably the biggest area I needed to work in. Having only been a pianist before, I haven’t moved on stage, other than to enter, bow and exit! So I spent several days with the choreographer just working on how to move and what movements can suggest. There is still of course lots to learn. I also learnt things like what technical teams need to know to produce their own cue sheets, how to make a script, how to use collaborators in rehearsal, how to manage a rehearsal.
4. The work-in-progress showings were really vital to the process. I was able to do an extra showing early in the process and here I also played some text for the first time. I was overwhelmed by how emotional that experience was, how nervous I was, so I was glad it had happened early on and in a relatively informal and intimate setting (Sam Underwood’s ‘If Wet’ series in Worcestershire). The showing at the Dome also gave me really valuable feedback and an opportunity to try the piece in a theatre.
5. I constantly had to show the work to my collaborators and I learnt so much from their feedback. Working with a team of experts was really incredible and humbling. To have three or four specialists in the room together meant we could work very fluidly, almost prototyping scenes – changing movements to fit around microphones, or trying different music with a particular lighting.
6. Having the space to rehearse in at the Dome was very special and quite a new journey for them (see below). Their team was fantastically supportive, with thorough technical support through to inventive marketing.
AUDIENCE RESPONSES: Sample of written comments
|Email from engineer who discovered the piano during the installation:“Came to your enchanting show last night. I was mesmerised. I was sitting near the back and I’ve rarely seen an audience with so many people pin-drop silent, leaning-sitting forward, captivated by a performance. My thing is ‘creativity and innovation’ and I’m always on the lookout for something that is not only original and different, but truly a move on. And I feel that your show’s narrative (the message of complicated, often topsy-turvy journey of motherhood) and integration of the reinvention of the classic piano, does that. Plus, speaking as a father, coupled to my working day (and night) 15 to 20 years ago; the narrative is so germane and easy to empathise with. Truly archetype work.”|
|@davidharrisonbn: “Pianist Sarah Nicolls has come up with something delightfully original in Moments Of Weightlessness seen @brightdome last night… The ingenuity of her self-invented insideout piano interplays with a narrative of parenthood in a performance both surprising and touching.”|
|Mum of two young children: “What a spot on performance showing the true juggling act of motherhood! Following ones own dreams and also being there for ones children and the demands this brings. The performance showed the mayhem of this journey us mothers go through and the sense of humour we need to have. Your performance was incredible… I found your playing so relaxing at times which took me far away from the demands I had gone through that day!”|
|Mum of one: “It was amazing – totally memorable and incredibly moving.”|