Pianist dissects tool of his trade
Will Pickvance

For Will Pickvance, the inspiration for his Fringe World show Anatomy of the Piano was an old Victorian lecture theatre once used by veterinarians to dissect animals.

It might sound like an unusual starting point but once Pickvance begins to elaborate, it starts to make sense.

"I was visiting an old vet school for an exhibition when I discovered this amazing lecture theatre used for anatomical demonstrations," he says. "It was a charming, intimate amphitheatre with semi-circle seating staring starkly down on the cadaver. As a pianist, I naturally thought it was a great space for a concert but more than that, a place where a piano might be dissected publicly."

As a result, Anatomy of the Piano, which is billed as "part piano recital, part fantasy lecture" was a smash hit when it played Edinburgh Fringe, success at which is still considered a rite of passage for any show to go on to tour internationally.

"I've been bringing shows to Edinburgh Fringe for the past few years, using anything from greasy spoons to church crypts as venues," the British muso-comic explains.

"I've made every mistake in the book so I guess that makes me an Edinburgh veteran. My previous shows were popular with the locals but sort of went under the radar of visiting crowds - it was basically the same punters coming back every night. Anatomy of the Piano was the first show to really attract a wider audience."

Pickvance says he originally conceived the show as a literal dissection - pulling apart a grand piano until there was only a "carcass" left. "Then I remembered I was a pianist and not a mechanic," says Pickvance, whose style has been likened to Perth's own Tim Minchin.

"I thought I'd better confine myself to descriptions and keep the stage free of clutter, so I've got this Powerpoint show with diagrams and bullet points. Powerpoint is totally incongruous with a piano concert but it plays an integral part of the show."

Pickvance says he can't remember a time when he didn't love the piano: playing it, thinking about it, and appreciating songs about it.

"It's only in retrospect that I realise I was addicted to the piano as a child in a way that none of my peers around me were," he says. "It starts as an obsession and then your identity becomes tied up with the whole thing - people start buying you socks with treble clefs on them and that's when you know you're a musician."

The musician has never been to Australia before. "I'm looking forward to discovering the city and wondering what pianos I might meet when I'm there and if I'll have a meaningful relationship with any of them."

Will Pickvance: Anatomy of The Piano is at Midlandia Rectangle Room from January 29 (preview) to February 2 before moving to the Noodle Palace at the Piccadilly Theatre from February 5-9.

The West Australian

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