The advent of your first child is a very special and scary time. Becky and John decide to up-sticks to the country in order to raise their new addition in idyllic surroundings. John immerses himself in baby manuals and an obsession with organic local produce, in order to give his progeny the best chance in life. Becky finds her libido rising to dangerous levels and sets about persuading John to satisfy her needs. However, he is having none of it. In desperation, she turns to his neglected porn stash to sate her fervent sexual hunger. The screen fantasies start to seep into her psyche, leaving Becky with urges she struggles to control. The addition of a new bicycle, and the faulty plumbing in the new house, lead Becky down a dangerous path.
Penelope Skinner’s razor-sharp play is laced with acid wit and scathing one-liners. In one sense, The Village Bike is laugh-out-loud hilarious. The first scene when Mike the plumber comes to fix Becky’s “sweaty pipes” is brilliant; stuffed full of double entendres. The scene gradually escalates to dangers levels of humour.
However, the comedy hides something much darker lurking beneath. Becky’s actions begin to have detrimental consequences on everyone’s lives; unmasking the benign facades of the key players. Becky’s control over herself, and her situation, slowly begins to slip away. It’s not just the ailing pipes that are in dire need of a good servicing. Their thunderous growls reflect her struggle to control her raging hormones. Becky begins to question who she really is and slowly begins to lose her grip on the situation like the chain on her bicycle. Indeed, the cleverness of the title of the play on really comes to light at the end.
Whilst the caricatures of the main protagonists may be somewhat outdated, the language, dialogue and interactions certainly aren’t. Skinner is clearly a skilled practitioner of this kind of material, making time-honoured relationship difficulties look fresh. Amy Cudden gives a virtuoso performance as Becky. Her range of guilt, emotional turmoil and coquettishness is impeccable. Christopher Harper’s portrayal of the hopelessly devoted husband John, and David Bark-Jones’ depiction of posh chauvinist Oliver, are both spot on. The characters of Mike and Jenny maybe rural stereotypes, but they are beautifully realised.
The Village Bike is a raucous drama which delivers both in terms of laughs and emotional engagement.
The run continues at the Studio Theatre until October 6th.