BBC Radio 4, 9 April 2013
This farcical comedy was inspired the idea of what composer Frederic
Chopin (Neil Stuke) might have felt if he had been invited to give a recital in mid-nineteenth century Manchester. Its
main premise revolved around the clash between art and commerce: Chopin was very much enamoured of his role as a pianist and
experimenter, trusting in the life of the mind. His hosts were very much into brocks and mortar (both literally and
physically), taking pride in their ability to build bigger and wider than anything else in Europe, while confirming Manchester's
status as "Cottonopolis," the cotton capital of the world.
Gary Brown's production took satirical pot-shots at various targets. Chopin
came across as highly strung, much given to berating his agent Salis (Ian Puleston-Davies) for making such a duff booking,
while failing to provide the celebrated pianist with the right type of female diversion. The Mancunians came across
as "muck and brass" types, fond of making clogs and trying to eke out affluent lifestyles amongst the smog. In terms
of tone, Chopin in Manchester reminded me very much of Granada Television's Eighties television comedy
Brass, itself a spoof of Dickens' Hard Times, in which Timothy West and Barbara Ewing frequently offered
invocations to the "son o'mine."
The action unfolded at a lively pace, with incident piling upon incident (as in the
best farcical comedies). The ending was quite unexpected, I am happy to say.