Featured photo- Benedict Wall and Gabrielle Scawthorn in THE VILLAGE BIKE. PIc Andree Vasguez.
This show was a knockout… A strong drama with good performances and was well suited to the intimacy of the Old Fitz.
Penelope Skinner’s play follows the journey of a troubled, sexy and feisty young woman, Becky who has recently become pregnant but is in a nondescript marriage to John.
John’s blandness is driving her mad. She is finally having their child but he becomes obsessed by it. That’s all he talks about. And to her chagrin his sex drive has deserted him. Even the porn dvd’s that he used to hide beneath the bed don’t hold any allure for him. Becky tries the strategy of watching this porn to win his adulation but fails.
Becky tries to prime her husband’s libido but without any luck. The inevitable happens…if she can’t get satisfaction at home she will seek it elsewhere. She has a sexual encounter with a very odd, charismatic guy called Oliver! And so begins her new, erotically charged life which spins, perhaps more to the point, veers increasingly out of control.
The play is the handiwork of one of Britain’s talented young playwrights’ Penelope Skinner and Rachel Chant gives it a searing production.
Anna Gardiner’s finely detailed set serves the play well. Through the whole play we are in one place – Becky and John’s abode. The set is split level – upstairs we have the couple’s bedroom and to the side an ‘illusion’ to a balcony window which comes into play late in the drama.
Downstairs. Gardiner manages to incorporate a lot on the tiny stage. Back of the stage- to the side – is a hint of a mossy courtyard. Front of the stage – is the couple’s living room. To the side is a staircase up to the basic bedroom.
Cleverly, Gardiner and Chant convey, by a little nudge of the imagination, a track around the house for when Becky uses her bicycle to escape home.
Nate Edmonson’s edgy soundscape and a good lighting design by Hartley T A Kemp enhance the action on stage.
The cast of five generate plenty of heat and make the most of Skinner’s quirky characters.
Kate Bookallil only gets one scene to make an impact and she does as aloof Alice, a frosty, betrayed wife, who gives a serve to yet another woman with whom her Lothario husband Oliver has been with.
From his first entrance playing the brash, charismatic Lothario Oliver who sells the ‘title’ bike to Becky, Rupert Reid gives a compelling performance. He holds his character well as the audience soon finds out the easy going, easy to please Oliver has a much darker, narcissistic side.
Benedict Wall plays Becky’s dorky husband, John, whose character remains obnoxiously bland through the whole play. Wall must have found it tough staying inside such a dorky, insipid character.
Jamie Oxenbould has made his acting career from principally playing oddball characters. Now he adds the easily flustered, boyish, affected plumber Mike to his collection. It’s a well realised performance.
Sophie Gregg does well playing the well meaning but clingy and meddling neighbour, Jenny. Every time Jenny makes an appearance, you can feel her jarring presence.
Gabrielle Scawthorn is striking as the volatile Becky who sees that her marriage has become a kind of prison and breaks out, if only for a time.
Skinner’s play presents a very different, edgier and more contemporary heroine than we are used to seeing on stage.
Highly recommended, THE VILLAGE BIKE Is playing the Old Fitz until the 8th July. Check the website for further details.