BWW Review: The Freedom Of A Simple BICYCLE Gives An Insight Into 19th Century Prejudice and Persecution
Tuesday 28th June 2016, 9:30pm, Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo
The seemingly simple gift of a BICYCLE in an age where women still rode horses side-saddle exposes a society not that far removed from contemporary views on women. Comic, incisive and filled with wonderful physicality, this period thriller has audiences captivated.
Danielle Baynes wrote and stars in the fictional story of a young woman living in Victorian England. The vibrant young red-head receives a liberating gift of a bicycle from a new 'friend' in exchange for the promise of attending a midnight supper with a Transylvanian Count who in turn will expose her to much more than a world of easy transport. Directed by Michael Dean, Baynes is accompanied by violinist and singer Pip Dracakis who provides the soundscape and musical interludes for this energetic dark tale.
Baynes is dressed in Victorian velvet coat and the controversiAl Bloomers, favoured by those women willing to push the boundaries of propriety in the conservative 19th century. A calico covered bike, complete with gift bow sits in the centre of the black stage, full of levels and ladders, in situ for The Old Fitz Theatre's INNER VOICES playing earlier in the night. A washing line of magazine and newspaper articles and hand written manuscripts stretches acRoss One corner of the space.
Baynes presents a wonderfully delicious and dark performance as she alternates between talking to her horse Clyde, narrating, and recreating conversations between herself and the Count, and later, her Father. The research into the history of the warnings about female cyclists is detailed and is the first insight into the limitations set on women as she explains the new machine that promises to "set her free" as her new form of transport. Baynes has a fabulous physicality as she caresses the metal steed as she would the flesh and blood it is substituting. There is also an inspired waltz as the liberating machine 'stands in' for the man who seeks to 'free' her from the normality of life. She exudes a haunted energy as she becomes liberated, regardless of the terrible truth behind the source of her confidence and inspiration. Her despair and disgust at the notion that her publishers wish for her to add romance to her story and later the suggestion that her work be 'stolen' by a man is pointed and poignant.
Through the bloodthirsty fictional tale BICYCLE highlights the extent that women were treated as inferior, restricted by how they behaved and were viewed by the general public, particularly as writers. Unfortunately this side of the story remains relevant as prejudices still remain. Whilst women are recognised for writing stories, contemporary writers, including some major authors have been known to disguise their gender or assume a nom de plume in order to gain respect or a male readership for stories that step outside the boundaries of happy romances, comedies or children's stories.
BICYCLE is a gripping, chilling thriller that holds an important deeper meaning, beyond the blood lust. A wonderful blend of comedy, truth, suspense, movement and music, BICYCLE is a must see for all audiences.
Old Fitz Theatre
21 June - 2 July 2016