Being a woman who cycles for transport, day or night, winter or summer, I was immediately drawn to Bicycle, touted as “a tale that celebrates all of the women who dared to don a pair of pants and ride”.
I entered it tautly, thinking: this could be humorous, political, historical, who-knows? The blurb doesn’t give much away and it is, after all, a Fringe show, so yeah, who knows? When I left, though, my posture was solid; I felt fearless.
We begin with a young woman in the 19th century, enamoured with a gift of a bicycle, given to her by a seductive stranger who tells her to take it, but only if she dines with him at midnight. Not only does the idea of bloomers and freedom and this mechanical steed excite her, so does the thought of “being” with a man (“I have somewhere I want to go, and this bicycle will take me there”).
Indeed, it’s a life-changing ride, and I’m so glad I went along for it.
What begins as a feminist take on the idea of bicycles in the 1800s swiftly turns to a feminist take on authorship in the 1800s. But wait – there are more feminist questions that begged to be asked: alongside having had the right to ride bicycles and the privilege of establishing a literary cannon, why do men own carnality and murder? Not that it’s something we women necessarily want to live up to, but still, why do they embody vampirism? Why are women always the victims?
I’m tempted to say this is a one-woman show but there’s a violinist – Pip Dracakis – who does slightly more than create a gothic atmosphere (which she does quite well both musically and dramatically in the stellar turn-of-the-century brick tunnel setting).
Danielle Baynes narrates her own story of the manipulated casualty while taking on the voices and personas of the Count and an oppressive father. The bicycle, too, takes on multiple roles as bit by bit it’s dismantled to be used as further props, symbolic of a life falling to pieces, symbolic of a woman’s dream of freedom being turned into fragments of mere metal.
This show is utterly surprising: edgy theatre, bold and fierce, especially for feisty women.
Lies, Lies and Propaganda is presenting Bicycle in the Treasury Tunnels at the Adina Apartment Hotel until March 3.
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