iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for The Glass Piano

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

The Glass Piano

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 24 April 2010

Writer and poet Deborah Levy considers the true story of Princess Alexandra Amelie of Bavaria, 1826-1875 who at the age of 23 was observed awkwardly walking sideways down the corridors of her family palace. When questioned by her worried royal parents, she announced that she had swallowed a grand glass piano.

The Princess is played by Emily Watson.

The piece is structured between the Princess's dialogue as she walks through the palace and the conversations Levy has to find out what's wrong with her. Our key contributors are the psychoanalyst Susie Orbach, historian Erin Sullivan and Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Dr Fiona Lecky with music composed and arranged by Chris O'Shaughnessy.

This is a magical tale on the one hand and a partial history and analysis of mental delusions on the other.

We follow the 23 year old Alexandra Amelie as she walks sideways around the doors and ornaments of the royal palace. She is wearing a white dress, certain colours and smells distress her.

Delusions of being made from glass were quite popular in the 16th century. The stories are extraordinary and include "The Lawyer Made From Glass", by Cervantes which tells of a man who believed his body was made from glass. He wears loose clothing, sleeps in straw, walks in the middle of the road to avoid injury from falling roof tiles, and is so scared of people approaching him when they give him food, he fixes a bucket to the end of a pole so fruit can be deposited in it.

For Levy, Alexandra Amelie is a sort of early cyborg, a collision of flesh and technology. Woman and piano have merged, the piano being an instrument of communication.

Broadcasts

Podcast

  1. Image for Between The Ears: Adventures in  Radio

    Between The Ears: Adventures in Radio

    Innovative and thought-provoking features, that make adventurous use of sound, explore a wide …

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss