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Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear by Alistair McGowan

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 15 July 2013
 
Misunderstood genius or just the classical equivalent of a one-hit wonder?  That was the question posed about Erik Satie, writer of the wonderful Gymnopiedes.  As portrayed by McGowan himself, he came across as an eccentric, fond of collecting umbrellas - he had over 140 at one time in his life - and wearing the same suit every day, whatever the weather, that made him look like a bank manager.  From an early age he was blessed with the gift of writing music; but his approach was so esoteric (by the standards of his time) that critics tended to dismiss his work, especially when compared with that of Claude Debussy (Nathaniel Parker) and Maurice Ravel.
 
In McGowan's play Satie's eccentricity seemed something of a fašade, designed to compensate for feelings of intense loneliness and rejection.  Even when he had a close relationship, either with Debussy or Suzanne Valadon (Imogen Stubbs), he could seldom disclose his true feelings.  As a result both abandoned him.  If he had been more forthcoming, Suzanne would certainly have spent her life with him, as she admitted towards the end of the play.
 
Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear was constructed in three short movements, each one very brief (almost like the Gymnopiedes).  They dramatized different moments in Satie's life, but cumulatively showed how no one really took him very seriously, in spite of his talent for writing music and dispensing witty observations.  At the end we were left feeling profoundly sad for him.  The director was Emma Harding.