The Life And Music Of Eileen Joyce. Julia Hastings. The Lab, Queen’s Theatre. 4 Mar 2018
“God help me. How do I get out of this mess?” Having intoned these pitiable words, Julia Hastings slumps over the piano and her left hands starts the slow introduction to Frédéric Chopin’s painfully beautiful Berceuse. Hastings could not have chosen a more poignant musical selection to illustrate the anguish and deep sorrow that Eileen Joyce felt as she faced the inevitable decision to end her career as concert pianist and reflected on the sum of her life. The Berceuse is a lullaby, and Joyce was probably not a model parent, having sent her three-year old son to boarding school so that she could concentrate on her career as a concert pianist. But we should be careful not to judge. Exceptional people do extraordinary things.
Hastings’ show is a tribute to the life of one of Australia’s most famous pianists who had a celebrated international career from the 1930s to the 1960s. Through a series of vignettes, we are given a teasing glimpse into the life of Joyce, from her arrival in Germany as a talented student through to other key events in her life, both musical and personal. Playing Joyce, Hastings delivers a carefully constructed spoken narrative that she has researched and written herself, and underlines it with musical selections that she plays at the piano. Occasionally there are voice overs that provide the opportunity to move from soliloquy to dialogue.
Hastings becomes Joyce. She dresses and wears her hair like Joyce, and her pianism is in some respects reminiscent of Joyce’s style (when compared to some of what can be heard on the recently released Eloquence/Decca studio recordings of Joyce.). The whole event is quite delightful, and transporting. My only criticism is that it is too short, even though it does play for an hour. There is the potential for more material to be introduced and for deeper exploration of Joyce’s life.
Hastings is a talented pianist, writer, and actor. Let’s hope she reworks this show and brings it back to the next Fringe. It deserves to be seen again, and again.
Where: The Lab, Queen’s Theatre