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The Other Mozart review at St James Studio, London – ‘beautifully designed one-woman show’

Sylvia Milo in The Other Mozart at St James Studio. Photo: Charlotte Dobre Sylvia Milo in The Other Mozart at St James Studio. Photo: Charlotte Dobre
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This is a gem of a show, suited to this intimate, club-like setting. Sylvia Milo and her director Isaac Byrne have combined spoken word, music, sound and innovative design to set the story Milo so eagerly tells.

Mozart’s older sister Marianne, nicknamed Nannerl, was a musical prodigy, equally feted on European tours with Wolfgang. An expressive instrumentalist, she tried her hand at composition, encouraged by her brother. How much she might have produced no one knows, but at 18 she was detained at home in domesticity and eventually married into the nobility, a philistine with five children.

The set is an enormous dress spreading to the edge of the stage, awash with letters, scores and notebooks. Its gauzy frills conceal pockets containing props, fans, even a cup and saucer. At its centre is a metal pannier frame echoing the shape of a grand dress of the period and suggesting the cage-like existence endured by women.

Milo wears a fetching approximation of 18th-century underwear and, in the first minutes, hides playfully behind the frame, but eventually has to don it. Nannerl wrote to her brother of an “erection” on her head and that enormous hair puffball is replicated here. Milo, an American, adopts a lightly accented ‘mittel-european’ sound and her face gleams with passion for the story of Nannerl, whom she becomes – clever, witty, frustrated, sometimes hysterical.

The only instrument on stage is a toy piano, but Davis and Chen’s score includes bells, music boxes and the ring of spoon on cup. Mozart’s music ultimately billows over proceedings, drowning out Nannerl.

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The story of Mozart's sister, a neglected prodigy brought to life in a beautifully designed one-woman show