What has 88 keys but no locks? A piano!

There is no shortage of jokes and funny stories when Simon Tedeschi is around. The world class pianist arrived on stage at the Octagon theatre in pyjama pants and formal coattails and it was clear his aptly titled children’s show Pianist and Prankster show was going to be a fabulous start to the Awesome Festival.

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Simon Tedeschi. Picture Cole Bennetts

The Awesome Festival opened on Friday at the University of Western Australia offering a bite-sized introduction to the children’s festival will continue to unfold at the Perth Cultural Centre for the next fifteen days. The program includes more than 30 different dance, theatre, music and arts activities for children.

Tedeschi has played for Luciano Pavarotti and the Queen but he also knows how to read kids and his show was a boisterous blend of classic piano repertoire and stories from his childhood. Mozart’s Twelve Variations in C was recognised with delight by my 5 year old –  “It’s Twinkle Twinkle played really really fast”. Other lesser-known pieces came with a story: Melinda’s Mini March was the piece that first inspired him to learn piano and a Chopin Mazurka payed tribute to his Polish Grandmother.

Tedeschi first performed at the Sydney Opera house at age 8 and has often been called a child prodigy. In this show he traced his precocious skills to his daily practise (often 9 hours a day) and the family and teachers who supported him along the way: the principal who bought a grand piano so Tedeschi could practice at school and the classroom teacher who made a pile of cushions so he could sleep during class.

There was no hint of elitism. Instead Tedeschi engaged in the type of bragging primary school children love:

“You know what I’m really bad at? Maths. And remembering things!” Cue a story about going to school with shorts on backwards.

There was a dreamy version of Schumann’s Traumerei and Chopin’s One Minute Waltz  played ridiculously fast (in 35 seconds to be precise). And then to finish my 7 year old’s favourite stunt where Tedeschi lay on the piano stool and played the piano upside down.

It was a revealing and also inspiring glimpse into the life of a person whose delight in music is incredibly contagious.

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Game Theory at Awesome Festival. Photo Rosalind Appleby

Meanwhile outside in the sun the Octagon Theatre was surrounded with stalls and vendors creating a buzzing festival vibe. We tried a drumming session and enjoyed the frivolity of the El Presidente entourage as bashful and delighted children were crowned and processed around in a carriage. And we got caught up in the street theatre as the delightful Swiss dance duo Game Theory used chalk to literally draw bystanders into their game of hopscotch. Chalk dust went everywhere as the antics and dance moves unfolded around us. “Don’t worry mum, its organic and washable and bio-everything,” the dancers assured me.

20180928_123141.jpgIt was a fun introduction to the immense program of events  about to explode at the Perth Cultural Centre. Awesome Festival has something for everyone and should definitely be on your holiday list.

Awesome Festival runs until 12th October at Perth Cultural Centre.