The Piano Tuner


60 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-921833-95-4
DDC C812'.54





Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson, Librarian Emeritus, former Assistant Director of
Libraries (University of Saskatchewan) and dramaturge (Festival de la
Dramaturgie des Prairies).


Alberta-born Robert Astle already had an enviable international record
as a clown and mask performer when he went through a personal slump,
then reinvented himself as a creative artist. His one-man shows of
found-object theatre are astounding pieces that have achieved mythical
status here and abroad. One has only to mention Heart of a Dog and The
Hats of Mr. Zenobe to elicit exclamations of admiration among theatre

The Piano Tuner is described as “an outrageous dialogue between a
[blind] piano tuner and a prepared piano.” From the very beginning an
announcement invites the audience to turn on all cellphones, pagers, and
everything else that beeps while the piano tuner comes on stage to
adjust the workings of a recalcitrant piano. Then, through a series of
astounding clownesque discoveries of objects between the keys and within
the innards of the prepared instrument, the hapless tuner is led bit by
bit to evoke and piece together a classic tale of marital betrayal,
jealousy, and murder. The audience virtually accompanies the tuner in
fitting together the various pieces of the story as it witnesses a
dizzying magic show of physical appearances and auditory tricks.

This is a book that deserves to be in every theatre library and
bookshop, not just for the text of the remarkable play (performed by the
author to great acclaim in 2003) but also for its explanatory afterword
(including technical notes) and for a piece called “The Republic of
Dreams” which reveals much about the author’s development as an
artist and his sources of inspiration and creation.


Astle, Robert., “The Piano Tuner,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,