BWW Reviews: THE VILLAGE BIKE, Crucible Studio, Sheffield, Sep 18 2012
The Village Bike, currently running at the Crucible Studio Theatre in Sheffield, is the latest work by young playwright Penelope Skinner.
The play centres on young teacher Becky (Amy Cudden) as she deals with adapting to life in a new village, contemplating a long summer holiday away from work and the changes in her hormones from her new pregnancy. Becky's husband John (Christopher Harper) is a 'good man', concerned with ethical farming, local shopping and ensuring the health of his unborn child is paramount. When Becky wants to take up cycling - and have sex more frequently - John is reluctant to participate in either activity, for fear of endangering his child's health. Thrown into the mix are local plumber Mike (Sean McKenzie), slightly over-eager neighbour Jenny (Caroline Harker), a flirty neighbour with a penchant for amateur dramatics and a bike to sell (David Bark-Jones) and his wife Alice (Alice Selwyn) as Becky's longings and loneliness come to the fore.
The play's contemporary setting and references make it feel incredibly fresh and vibrant - and the traverse staging, with the audience on either side only contributes to the play's effervescence, as do some cleverly placed effects in the second act (to give them away would be to spoil the surprise). The dialogue sparkles, both naturalistic and very funny - Skinner's observations are often very astute. There is not a weak performance amongst the six-strong cast - Harker has a gem of a role and lights up the stage whenever she appears; Bark-Jones displays a wonderful mix of charisma and charm with an undercurrent of being a total bastard, whilst Harper and Cudden are understated and utterly believable as the couple at the heart of the piece. Selwyn and McKenzie are equally well-cast in their supporting roles.
The play is not perfect - at times the metaphors of bikes and hot weather for Becky's sexual longings and frustrations are a bit too heavy-handed; and at times the characters verge on The Edge of becoming caricatures - although the direction (by Jonathan Humphreys) and performances largely manage to save them from this fate. The ending also feels a little rushed - but these are minor quibbles, as this show is incredibly funny, very sparky and beautifully staged - as long as you're not offended by swearing and sexual references, it is a very entertaining night out.
The Village Bike is at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield until Saturday 6 October.