Erik’s Satie-Faction (4 Stars)

Erik’s Satie-Faction at the Pleasance Courtyard (Forth)
12:50 Saturday 27th August 2016
4 Stars ****

Produced by Avalon Promotions Ltd, Bjorn Wentlandt
Directed by Charlotte Page and Alistair McGowan
Set, light and projection design Declan Randall.
Sound Design and Operator Jo Walker

The French composer of the beautiful Gymnopedies described himself as ‘a pretentious cretin whose music makes people laugh and shrug their shoulders.’ BAFTA-winning impressionist and Olivier award-nominated actor Alistair McGowan plays several of Satie’s well known, ground-breaking piano pieces and delivers his own take on Esoterik, Satie’s never-before performed and often surreal articles and poems. A new, unique, warm, witty, intelligent and moving show”.

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What a pleasant surprise to arrive in an Edinburgh Fringe show and find there’s actually a Set on stage in place! Not just a flat or a flat on a truck, an actual set designed for the show! It’s clearly designed to transform the space with a consideration for the turn-around in and out of the show. Designed by Declan Randall as a one-piece backdrop and floor covering with some carefully selected prop and set items to take you into the various areas of Erik Satie’s monologue – skillfully performed by Alistair McGowan.
With so many shows taking an easy option on the Set it was quite a thrill to enter a venue that felt like a proper theatre!
The seamless integration of the Lighting, Set and Video design into the structure of the performance was well crafted by Declan. It helps when the same person designs the piece. With clear collaboration with the Sound Design (Jo Walker) the video was never intrusive but guided the location and story with sensitivity and flair.
It has to be said that Alistair’s performance skills are second to none – from comic timing, to voice control, even his piano mastery was superb!!! All blended in to deliver a polish to the show.

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The stylised use of the video to display abstract emotions of Erik Satie’s state of mind when he plays the piano helps us escape the living room environment of the Set and go on the journey with Erik. These pictures paint a thousand words – a truly wonderful piece of theatre! Erik’s love of Claude deBussy’s music allowed some musical interludes all of them an absolulte treat! Erik Satie probably best known for his Gymnopedies series of compositions. Click here if you’d like to hear them!

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After his death, Satie’s friends discovered an apartment replete with squalor and chaos. Among many other unsorted papers and miscellaneous items, it contained a large number of umbrellas which explains the large number of umbrellas within the set and hanging from the rig.

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Erik’s personal life seems to have started and stopped with one love Suzanne Valadon. They began an affair early in 1893. After their first night together, he proposed marriage. The two did not marry, but Valadon moved to a room next to Satie’s at the Rue Cortot. Satie became obsessed with her. His love song forming the finale piece. All of this iconically described with wonderful music and a projected rose. Enchanting.

My only criticism is actually the fault of the venue. It was freezing in there. With AirCon blasting throughout and an audience huddled and hugging themselves you know it’s cold. Even the Show’s Tech Operator grabbed a hoodie, buttoned it up, and pulled up the hood during the show – that’s a problem that could so easily have been sorted.

This was a beautiful show with much comedy and love. The personal touches of the eccentric Erik Satie presented stylishly and with reverence. Definitely one to go see.

(Reviewed by Richard Lambert)

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