Theatre review: Erik Satie’s – Faction

Alistair McGowan performing his show
Alistair McGowan performing his show
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Erik Satie is best known – if he is known at all – for writing some sublime piano music which was rather ahead of its time.

Star rating: ***

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

This one-man show by impressionist and stand-up comic Alistair McGowan reveals the man behind the music as depressive, egotistical and a proper odd-ball.

It’s 1916 and Satie is 50, and, in his own words (every line in this play is his own words) “the most unhappy human being in history”. He eats only white foods, employs a doctor to take his temperature every hour, and blames most of his troubles on his music. He is haunted by his one failed love affair, and will admit no visitors.

McGowan (who has an Olivier Award nomination for acting as well as a Bafta for his work as an impressionist) gives a powerfully assured performance, and plays the piano beautifully. But for all that he paints a complex and detailed picture of Satie, he doesn’t inspire our sympathy or invite us into his emotional world to understand it better. Fiercely clever and relentlessly sarcastic, his Satie keeps the audience at a distance, and more than a little uneasy.

Until 28 August. Today 12:50pm.

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