DramSoc’s ‘The Village Bike’ Review @ Pegg Theatre, Student’s Union

Is the countryside ever really as peaceful as we sometimes imagine it to be? Of course not. There’s too much sex going on.

Dramsoc’s production of Penelope Skinner’s 2011 play shows us with sparkling pace and wit how restless the adult mind can become in the face of ageing, parenthood, and sheer boredom. Vivacious English teacher Becky (Amy Cotter), pregnant and recently moved into the country with husband John (Peter Whatrup), slowly loses her mind over her raging sexual desires and her husband’s inability to discuss anything but baby books. In a desperate bid to find the connection she craves in a community that is too small-minded to appreciate her, she embarks on lusty affairs with the eccentric Oliver (Jonas Moore) and local plumber Mike (Josh Hunter).

Cotter is the absolute star of the show. From start to finish she displays the frustrated electricity buzzing tensely beneath Becky’s skin as if she herself has been wound up and let loose. Her constant energy is in astute contrast to the other characters, in particular the terrifically earnest Peter Whatrup, who zealously discusses the quality of free-range meat and the release of pregnancy hormones rather than meeting his wife’s needs. Then there is Jenny (Kelsey Stewart), the neighbouring housewife who is, however, less honest with herself than Becky about her emotions and desires, and far less ready to discuss sex with any seriousness.

The script is very funny, and at times outstandingly intelligent. In the first act it seems almost every single line is a sexual innuendo about as subtle as a car alarm going off, and sexual tension astoundingly manages to lurk beneath every conversation no matter how trivial. Even the act of finding a pen to write a cheque with becomes a magnificently funny moment of absurdity.

Every line is charged with meaning, pointing constantly to issues of sexual desire, gender politics and the uncomfortable clash of fantasy and reality, epitomised by Becky’s gender-inverting indulgence in her husband’s porn stash. In the same conversation, Becky tells her lover Oliver that “I love being your fantasy!” and that “You’re a tool, I’m an oven.”

Astute attention to detail has evidently been paid by director Jacob Fredrickson. Real, steaming tea is used onstage, lunch plates have real lasagne remains on them, and there’s a kitchen counter with real running water. Background sound changes intelligently from the bucolic ringing of birdsong to the sound of a clock ticking like a bourgeois apocalypse, and the transition music is apt and amusing.

It must be said, however, that Jonas Moore has been miscast as Oliver. It is a part far too peculiar and abrasive for someone with such a naturally gentle voice, face and stage presence to take on adequately. This is not to take away from his otherwise clear intelligence as an actor, but he is not believable enough and it detracted significantly from the overall production. Similarly, Josh Hunter’s Mike the plumber felt a little undercooked. His accent and appearance as the sole working class figure is not at all distinct from the characters around him, and he needs to be bolder because (however unfortunately) his very simple character is only present to give class an outlet in the script.

DramSoc have nevertheless achieved something memorable here. The Village Bike is terrifically amusing, and features some outstanding performances from some outstanding actors. I suggest you jump on your bike and get down to see it while you can.

4 Stars

****

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