JOYCE MCMILLAN on SONATA FOR A MAN AND A BOY at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 26.11.12
4 stars ****
IT LASTS barely 40 minutes, this new show for young audiences created by the MacRobert Theatre with musician Greg Sinclair, director Michael Sherin and designer Karen Tennant; yet it’s a deep, rich, and thought-provoking piece of theatre, full of beauty and playfulness. The two performers are Sinclair himself, and Bartek Bialucki, a young cellist with the El Sistema Big Noise Orchestra; and the show takes the form of a cello lesson that keeps exploding into laughter, rebellion, role-switching, and rough theatrical poetry.
So there’s physical comedy, as the two performers become entangled in their cellos and bows; there’s racing and chasing and music, from simple scales to haunting melodies, played with feeling by both man and boy. And just occasionally, there are falling shoes, and a turning towards a huge, frightening presence at the back of the stage; although whether this is a glimpse of the holocaust that once slaughtered so many musicians, or simply of the looming adult world, is a question left open.
What’s most moving, though, is to see the deep connection between teacher and pupil, man and boy – and the man in the boy, the boy in every man – rescued from the torrent of suspicion that now surrounds such relationships. Whatever threats lie ahead, this is a story of how the pure love of music binds generations together, and guides the boy on his path to manhood; as well as giving the man the space to play that every human being needs, in youth, in age, and in the middle of life.