Search This Blog

Sunday 17 July 2011

The Village Bike, Play by Penelope Skinner, Royal Court Theatre, London, almost 4* out of 5

The Hungarian writer George Mikes once observed: Other people have sex, the English have hot-water bottles. Judging by Penelope Skinner's play, the English have come a long way.

Becky and John are a young couple living in rural middle-England. Becky is expecting baby and senses that pregnancy has made her less sexually attractive to her husband. Her plan is to do whatever it takes to get good sex back into her marriage: yoga, riding a bike and a sexy nightie form part of the arsenal with which she would like to seduce her man. John however has become broody, completely focussed on the impending pregnancy and determined to read everything about motherhood and interpret his wife's outbursts accordingly. The one thing he has absolutely no inclination to engage in with his newly pregnant wife is sex. Becky however is determined to get what she's after: there's the stash of old porno films that used to enliven her sex life with John in the past. Failing that, there's the middle-aged, widowed village plumber who might well be a candidate for fun and games. Even better there's Oliver, a dashing young man who sells her the second-hand bike she wants, in order to keep fit, and whose wife's away for the summer.

The Village Bike is original, direct and funny. It is about sex, it turns many stereotypes upside down. The first act of the play is outstanding. The second part re-establishes the old order of things as the woman who goes after what she wants is faced with the consequences of her behaviour on the people around her. Women cannot not get away with what men easily get away with. Women have to pay a price that men don't.

By having her play follow prevailing moral double-standards that disadvantage women in fulfilling their desire for sex, Penelope Skinner missed an opportunity to follow through on the comedy, dark humour and above the subversiveness of the first act. Nevertheless, The Village Bike is a strong and entertaining play.
Skinner is an alumna of the Royal Court Theatres play-writing workshops. With the Village Bike she has given us a dark, funny and dramatic play of high quality. The director Jo Hill-Gibbens has done an outstanding job to ensure that the production moves along without a dull moment and holds the audience's attention. An excellent cast is led by Romula Garai as Becky. She is among the most talented British actresses of her generation and gives a sympathetic, totally believable portrayal here of a young woman who is ready to take risks in order to get what she wants. 

The Village Bike - Becky (Romola Garai) and John (Nicholas Burns) 

No comments:

Post a Comment