Ride is a play about memory: about not remembering, about remembering too much, and ultimately, about remembering just enough to be satisfied. It is not Jane Bodie's finest work, but in it, the thoughts that would eventually become better work - This Year's Ashes in particular - are clear. It is early days in terms of the Sydney Fringe Festival, but Ride is definitely one to mark down as on your list as one to see.
Ride is the story of two people, a man and a woman, who wake up in the man's flat one morning with no idea how they got there. They don't know each other. All they know is that they both went out (in completely different parts of Melbourne), and somehow, through hazily reconstructed memories, they begin to piece together how they know each other. Through this shared memory loss, they come to know each other much better - despite the fact that they don't know the most basic facts about each other (like their names).
There are some elements of Ride that ring false. The fact that they maybe-nearly-probably slept together and there's no evidence of them using any kind of protection is one of them. This is remarked on cursorily and then never addressed again. This is not to say that it's the place of the play to deliver some sort of safe sex lecture - it's absolutely not - but both characters should have been the recipient of enough safe sex lectures to be considerably more worried about this than they actually are. If you can suspend disbelief through this, though, Ride is really quite a lovely play - a play about people coming to know each other in one of the most organic ways possible: awkwardly, haltingly, and ultimately, better than they ever expected.
One of Jane Bodie's real gifts as a writer is writing about cities, and making cities characters in plays: anyone who saw This Year's Ashes will not forget the exquisite picture it paints of Sydney on New Year's Eve. The city in question in Ride is Melbourne, and Bodie manages to make it a character without the two physical characters ever leaving the bedroom. Together, they trace their respective journeys through places they go and places they would never go. Where they go in the city says things about them, making it perfectly clear that these two people never would have met under other circumstances and yet are, oddly, in this one moment, perfect for each other. I'm not a big reader of travel writing, but if Jane Bodie took it up, I'm pretty sure she could convert me.
Ride isn't necessarily a romance, not in the sense that This Year's Ashes was. There is a romance forming on the horizon, but it remains a distant possibility. It is, however, infused with that same utopian sense of hopefulness that permeates good romance, and the female character (played beautifully by Kerri Glasscock) echoes the character that might eventually become This Year's Ashes Ellen: a messy, lonely woman who has very little sense of her own loveliness. The male character (played by Michael Pigott) is less clearly drawn - we get less of a sense of who he is than we do of the female character. But - as in This Year's Ashes - the end of this play is really a beginning.
Ride was my first show of the 2012 Sydney Fringe Festival and it was a wonderful way to start. It's not a perfect play by any means, but it is a show well worth watching. I certainly recommend you make it part of your Fringe.
The Old 505 Theatre presents
Written by Jane Bodie
Venue: Old 505 Theatre, Suite 505, 342 Elizabeth St, Surrey Hills
Dates: September 6 to 16, 2012