Saturday, 25 June 2011

'Pluck!' Exeter Northcott Theatre Saturday 25 June

Classical music and comedy fans were given a double treat on Saturday night when 'incompetent' string trio, 'Pluck!', came to the Northcott to share their hilarious, and highly talented, performance 'Musical Arson' with us all.

After several changes of line up the current cast is made up of Kit Massey (violin), Brooke Day (viola) and Flora Allison ('cello). Each vies with the other two for attention, entering into endlessly changing alliances in their attempts to outwit each other.

The opening number, Leroy Anderson's 'Plink, Plank, Plunk!', was a subtle and silly piece played entirely in pizzicato and returning over and again to those three big notes. Kit tries to be 'director of music' as Flora and Brooke do their best to ignore or undermine his posturing.

With Brooke as his willing but incompetent assistant, Kit gave a series of 'lectures' about the acoustic equipment of the twentieth century. Offenbach on a Victor HP180 gramophone, McCartney's 'Eleanor Rigby' on Lear eight-track and Pachelbel's 'Canon and Gigue' on 'Walkman'. In a masterpiece of timing, the sounds were produced backstage by Brooke and Flora (including glitches and track changes). Every 'recording' turned out to be a rather special arrangement for violin and 'cello!

Also included in the first half were two helpings of Vivaldi's 'L'Inverno' - the second ending with Flora losing it and giving Brooke the most extreme 'wedgie' imaginable, Rossini's 'Overture to William Tell' on miniature violin, and Mozart's 'Rondo Alla Turca' at breakneck speed, until smoke issues from Kit's violin.

After the interval the anarchy continued. Strauss's 'Blue Danube' was played as 'musical chairs' - ending with all three performers balanced precariously on one chair. Flora's superb version of Little Willie John's 'Fever' was subverted by Kit taking over her 'cello fingerboard and changing the key. Flora also sang 'Fever' on a microphone which appeared not to work and cut in half-way through the verse, for great comic effect. (I'm still not sure that wasn't an accident.)

'Fever' was topped by Flora's outrageously seductive performance of Ravel's 'Bolero'. Then to change the mood Kit's violin is brought on, burned beyond repair. As he sobs his grief Flora and Brooke take up the tune - Bach's 'Air on a G-String'. Kit's grief is soon forgotten as Flora presents him with a brand new violin, which he uses to play Jimi Hendrix' 'Purple Haze'. He relives Hendrix at the Astoria - even to the extent of setting fire to this violin as well.

Violinist Kit Massey and Violist Brooke Day
have 'Cellist Flora Allison at her wits' end

Finally Kit and Flora gave us Tchaikovsky's 'Overture to 1812' with Brooke providing simple, but very effective (and very comic), 'special effects' to simulate a 21 gun salute, while rigged up as a one-man-band, and still playing his viola perfectly.

This was a truly magnificent performance. "Pure Hoffnung!" one audience member was heard to comment. Well done to a great trio, non-stop entertainment of the highest standard.

To see where the 'Pluck!' trio will be playing 'Musical Arson' in future, try their website

To see what's coming up at the Northcott :

In the Northcott Foyer:
Flora Allison flanked by two giants of comedy
- Brooke Day and Kit Massey

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