James Rhodes, Ambassadors Theatre, review: Visceral and dramatic

From his T-shirt to his funny, raw confessions, he ignores classical rituals

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The Independent Culture

James Rhodes sits in a white T-shirt and looks at his piano’s keys, as if wondering what will happen next. Then he plays slow and soft, fingers poised before touching the keys.

There is a jagged, staccato quality, small pauses preceding rushes, reminiscent of a jazz improviser picking his way through a piece’s creation.

The presenter of Channel 4’s Don’t Stop the Music, about music education’s obliteration in British schools, gives a rich context tonight to music he explains as expressions of composers’ psychological states. Rhodes sees these, like his own, to be inevitably “mad”.

He discusses the “loyalty card” he must have earned in psychiatric wards (“10 visits then a free lobotomy?”). But the deeper he goes into his painful life, the more ordinarily human he makes it.

From his T-shirt to his funny, raw confessions, he ignores classical rituals, and would be easy to type as one of the music’s damaged geniuses: C4’s Glenn Gould.

The violent variety he finds in Chopin’s Scherzo in B Flat Minor, or his visceral, thundering flight through Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights, simply sacrifice formality for deeply felt, dramatic expression.

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