The Village Bike

The Village Bike
By Penelope Skinner. Cross Pollinate Productions. Director: Rachel Chant. The Old Fitz Theatre, Sydney. 7 June – 8 July, 2017

Behind the busy bar of a rough and tumble Wooloomooloo drinking spot, downstairs, between the busy kitchen, the inadequate toilets and a dining area is the cramped theatre space. The stacked audience face a perfect little setting in which everything works – the doors, the upstairs bedroom, the rumbling pipes, the computer, the sink, the bike. The Sydney Theatre Company couldn’t wish for a more polished and convincing set.

This is the English village home of Becky (Gabrielle Scawthorn) and John (Benedict Wall), and Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike follows the indiscrete adventures of Becky, a pregnant English teacher on her July-August holidays. Faced by Mike’s obsession for having a healthy child, Becky finds herself keen for a little sex. 

Becky is increasingly sex obsessed in this fine play that premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre and won the 2011 George Devine Award.

The behaviour of those around Becky doesn’t help. There’s Mike (Jamie Oxenbould), the local plumber, anxious for easy pickings; Jenny (Sophie Gregg), the next-door neighbour, who wants to unload baby clothes and toys; and Oliver (Rupert Reid), an amateur actor who cycles around in his handsome highwayman costume and whose wife Alice (Kate Bookallil) is conveniently absent.

John is not aware of his wife’s needs, even in her new black negligee. Feeling scorned and increasingly desperate, Becky breaks out, first purchasing Oliver’s bike. Soon her amorous adventures lead her into tight corners and bleak outcomes. Never off the stage, Gabrielle Scawthorn gives a brilliant, feisty account of Becky, red hair aglow. 

In a perfect cast, Rupert Reid is ideal as the marauding Oliver, Jamie Oxenbould great as the weak-willed plumber. It’s hard to imagine a more suited team.

The meticulous setting is the work of Anna Gardiner and Martelle Hunt. Brilliant lighting by Hartley Kemp makes every bit of the set work and the compositions of Nate Edmonson fill every second of time between the scenes. 

Full marks to director Rachel Chant, whose desire for perfection is hereby duly noted.

Frank Hatherley

Image: Gabrielle Scawthorn. Photographer: John Marmaras.

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