We’ve all sat far away from home in the lounge of some large hotel when the cocktail pianist starts to play. Some notes he gets right, some notes he doesn’t. Some tunes he knows all the way through – others he doesn’t.
Mike Hatchard has written and performs in this slightly cringe-making self-conscious world of the mediocre hotel entertainer. And as he plays piano bits and pieces from Beethoven, the Girl from Ipanema, Mother Kelly’s doorstep and others, he unravels his sad but warmly funny life story.
It’s a tale of what might have been but this 60-something year old pianist has certainly had a varied love life. As an autistic but artistic child prodigy he has his first sexual encounter aged 14 with a 45 year old woman. It’s an encounter that tragically colours his future.
A highly gifted student at the Royal School of Music, he has some kind of epiphany during a prestigious piano competition when he thinks he sees the 45-year-old in the front row of the audience.
It isn’t her, and the shock leads to a breakdown and he’s literally running away from life and music for a number of years.
Various other women come in and out of his life – most with devastating effects – and a second mistaken identity episode leads to further complications.
How he ends up playing in the lounge of an hotel in Luton is beautifully and sadly explained. Needless to say, his life ultimately seems not to have been a failure, and we leave him playing Summertime, with a tinge of unhappiness, but also a feeling of warmth.
Mike Hatchard, who is clearly a top-class pianist, creates the sad, ironic and laconic character of Bernard with ease and with an often unconscious sense of irony. This is a show about time, timing, numbers, coincidences and lost opportunities – but above all about the resilience of the human spirit.
“I don’t play well, I don’t play badly : I just play,” he says.
The show deserves a larger audience and a better time slot than 5.15pm.
The Cocktail Pianist with Mike Hatchard
Venue: Sweet Waterfront 2
Reviewed: May 18
Reviewer: Brian Butler
Runs until: May 21