Written & performed by Sam Anderson. The Butterfly Club, Melbourne. 6 – 11 August 2018

Sam Anderson is a big, brawny, super-fit guy.  He has to be super-fit since in this show he rarely rests and is rarely still.  The sweat is real.  Dressed in work-out gym gear, his persona is a hepsi-pepsi, gung-ho, semi-bullying gym instructor and we’re his ‘class’, bent on self-improvement.  He’s on an exercise bike – well, the bike is mimed – and he’s pedalling fast.  Supposedly, we are too. 

He exhorts us to greater effort: we should reach down and ‘increase the resistance’ (gym people will know what that means) on our bikes, get sticky down there – and climb that mountain.  Of course, the bike and the ‘resistance’ and the mountain are, we realise, all metaphors for something else.  Meanwhile, it’s frenetic and relentless – and funny.  Sam gives us a caricature of these muscle-bound, super-positive totalitarians to whom we submit in order to be ‘healthy’, fit and (probably) more attractive.  But is all this exhausting physical effort just in pursuit of being toned or even improving our characters?  No, it’s also a desperate mental, endorphin-drenched escape from some pressing personal problems.  (C.f. Emilie Collyer’s excellent Contest, reviewed here a couple of weeks ago – although this is rather simpler and less poetic!) 

Sam climbs off the bike and tells us – in touching contrast to his instructor persona – about his personal life in which the main problem is a certain sexual ambivalence.  (Hence the title.)  There’s a girlfriend, Ariel, but there’s also this fellow he met on opening night of The Lion King…  Now super-confident Sam becomes an uncertain boy, still prone to some guilt, still in thrall to Pollyanna-ish Mum and chain-smoking, Aussie bloke Dad (both vividly brought to life), plus a nut job therapist (‘You’re a cat’), a hyper-hetero GP who ignores the problem, and then another therapist, the kind that goes, ‘Mmmmm…’  These cameos are interspersed with more punishing work-outs on the bike, where – metaphorically speaking – it’s so much easier to ‘find yourself’ and ‘fly’.

The setting is very much Sydney, with references to Taylor Square, Oxford Street, Bondi and so on – places which could be more meaningful to a Melbourne audience with a bit of research.  It’s not as if we don’t have equivalents.  But at a very tight forty-five minutes, Bi-Cycle is original in concept, precisely choreographed, satirical, funny and rather sweet.

Michael Brindley

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