Thomas Monckton

On Wednesday night we went to see the most wonderful show, The Pianist. It’s part theatre, part circus, part piano recital, and it’s very very funny. I even went so far as to say it “blew my mind”, you can read the full response here. The creator and star of The Pianist is Thomas Monckton, a New Zealand-born French-trained clown who lives in Paris. Here’s what he has to say for himself.

I’m an evolved newt but I’m also a dropout from biology so it’s possible that that isn’t true.

My day usually begins with a solitary staircase coming down from a dimly lit ceiling with a sliver of lawn grass running down the middle of the steps with each blade of grass a different shade of green and on the blade of grass are tiny chanting ladybirds holding protest signs…and then I wake up and have a smoothie. My day ends with practicing different ways a dolphin might get into a human bed if it needed to. I highly recommend this activity.

Name your three favourite places in Auckland to eat, drink and play
1. Eat: On the steps of the central Auckland police station
2. Drink: Onetangi Service Station on Waiheke Island.
3. Play: Downtown Carpark

Tell us something we’d be surprised to know about you
I hate crossing roads. They confuse and scare me. I can’t wait until I’m at the age where it’s acceptable to grab a stranger to help me cross the road.

Pick a book and a park you’d like to read it in, anywhere in the world.
A map book of Hyde Park in Buttes Chaumont, Paris and look really really confused. Just to see if anyone would help me out.

Tell us a little bit about The Pianist.
The Pianist is a show about a drummer. I mean a pianist… who is trying to live up to his own expectations of himself and of the expectations of a classical music recital and fails triumphantly. I use lots of circus training in the show but try to make the tricks as invisible as possible. Some parts of the show are seemingly insignificant but actually took me years to be able to do. I worked on it in a small town in Finland with Sanna Silvenoinen who is a contemporary dancer and circus artist and since then it has performed all over internationally. Even Korea wants to make a replica of the show.

I performed The Pianist in Russia and all the children in the audience started chanting (in Russian) “put your shoes back on!”. I had no idea what they were saying. It was kind of scary though. Chanting children are scary enough, but in a language you don’t understand it’s even more intense.

Tell us a story from your touring adventures across Europe.
In one show in Edinburgh Fringe there were some very nicely dressed people sitting at the front. At one point in the show I decided it was a good time to climb into the audience and play around a bit and so I did. On my way back to the stage I clambered over the nicely dressed people, got up on stage, and carried on with the show. After the show my producer said that there were some VIPs in the audience. I asked who they were and she said it was the Queen of Holland and family.

What has your experience with clowning taught you about life?
Mistakes and difficulties are some of the most interesting moments of our lives.

You mention that contemporary circus and cross-genre theatre are taking Europe by storm, what’s the most unexpected thing you’ve ever seen happen on a stage?
A scalp of hair being slowly lowered into a four meter turbine engine. It was weird. I liked it.

If everyone in the world had a theme song that played when they walked into a room, what would yours be and why?
4’33”  by John Cage. It does actually happen. Every time. You have to listen for it next time I come into a room.

You can see The Pianist at the Herald Theatre until the 18th of April and I highly recommend that you do. Take the kids. Get tickets here.