Left – Gabrielle Scawthron. Cover – Benedict Wall and Gabrielle Scawthorn. Photos – Andre Vasquez
Becky is pregnant and horny but her husband, John, is more focused serving up a culinary linguini than her requested cunnilingus. It’s a lasagne, actually, but no matter how lovingly the pasta is made, Becky would rather get laid. It’s her sexual appetite that needs appeasing.
John frets that any kind of sexual activity could harm the foetus despite Becky’s assurances that the baby is in her womb not her vagina. John would rather bury his nose into a pre-natal book than engage in pre-natal nooky. Becky decides to buy a bike for exercise and to exorcise her hankering for hanky panky.
She purchases a second hand cycle from a local eccentric, Oliver, a local actor and charming chancer. Quite soon, after more intimate entreaty is denied by her spouse, who has, for all intents and purposes, appropriated the pregnancy, neglected wife is pedalling open legged to the open arms of Oliver. It’s a fantasy fuck, they both agree, but Becky can’t deny an emotional attachment. For Oliver, it’s nothing more than a lark, a secret to be kept from her husband and especially his spouse, Alice.
Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike has all the prerequisites of good drama – the human being reduced by inescapable process to a state of desperation. Her script is as contemporary as sexting and revenge porn and as old as societal conditioning and gendered norms. There’s a nod of the head to Hedda Gabler but with more tea cup comedy than towering tragedy.
Gabrielle Scawthorn is brilliant as Becky the bike riding belle bidden to adultery by a subjugating spouse. Benedict Wall as John, her spoke in the wheel husband, epitomises the piteous and patronising paternalism of the male, reducing his wife to an incubator, monitoring her maternity with the veneer of New Age care, a façade for his old fashioned domestic fascism.
Rupert Reid exudes a shabby charm as the jolly rogering cicisbeo, Oliver. He is the robust root vegetable compared to the cuckold wet lettuce. Jamie Oxenbould plays Mike the Plumber, as a yokel tradie, burdened with Benny Hill lines alluding to sweaty pipes, plumbing the depths of innuendo and double entendre. Sophie Gregg as the neighbour, serves as a projection of Becky’s future – neglected wife and abandoned mother – collateral damage to the status quo. Kate Bookalil as Alice, Oliver’s wife, delivers a cool pleasance in a caustic cameo.
Production designers Anna Gardiner and Martelle Hunt have filled up the Old Fitz space with a two story construction, bedroom upstairs, kitchen downstairs, with small semblance of a side yard, and just enough room downstage for some simulated cycling.
Director Rachel Chant has a firm handle on this production although fewer pregnant pauses and a little faster on the pedal should make The Village Bike an even more exhilarating ride.
Cross Pollinate Productions in association with Red Line Productions presents
THE VILLAGE BIKE
by Penelope Skinner
Directed by Rachel Chant
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre | 129 Dowling Street (Cnr Cathedral Street), Woolloomooloo
Dates: 7 June – 8 July 2017
Tickets: $42 – $35