Review : The Village Bike @ Sheffield Crucible Studio

“He wondered if she got him that Matt Smith autograph he wanted”. Photo: Crucible Theatre website.

The Village Bike by Penelope Skinner tells the story of Becky, a married woman going through her first pregnancy. Her whole life is being transformed irreversibly in front of her very eyes and the desperation brought by fast change is creating a personality crisis in her. She lives in a quiet village away from the busy London life with her husband, the emotionally clumsy but well meaning John, who has a zealot like hatred of Tesco and a very low count of “empathy” in his blood. 

Added to the mix are a stash of porn DVDs (loitering about in most scenes, like a guilt complex), a crappy plumbing rattling about, a seemingly stable woman in the verge of a nervous breakdown (Jenny), a plumber (Mike) and local sleazy leach Oliver (who also sells bikes). A relentless heatwave is hitting the British isles and the inner turmoil in Becky could unravel her life like the proverbial sweater from the Weezer song.

Without spoiling much, Becky‘s emotional journey into her pregnancy is not an easy one. The step into motherhood is proving too daunting and the emotions are tearing her asunder. The missed opportunities of the past and the uncertainty of the future are playing poker in her head and she will make decisions and the consequences will be apparent more in the longer term than in the short term.

The ending seems to be a cop out and that’s half right if you consider that there’s no clear cut resolution, but the haunting final scene clearly turns the screw in the genre department. Indeed: it started as a slice of life comedy with some rather incisive jokes that reflect reality and very subtly, the plot turned dark and the resolution is much more ominous than what’s shown. The added symbolism (the porn stash, the rattling pipes, the used up bike) and the very subtle hints of the future (hey…one of you seems to be a serial killer! And another one could very well be a stalker!) are the added bonus to this play.

The cast are all perfect in their roles but if two needed to be singled out, I’ll go for one obvious choice and one fringe choice. First of all, Amy Cudden (Becky) is carrying the whole play on her back. She portrays the wild mood swings down to a t and does convey that frustration and confusion people go through when their life is going through an enduring change. The second choice is Sean McKenzie (Mike, the plumber). He has just two scenes, but they are very crucial and they seem to be the ones that will carry the bigger repercussions in the future we don’t see in the play (but we might fear it could be).

Mind you, it’s not a completely stark play. In fact, the first act is very well paced and has a lot of laughs (ah, love British innuendo!)

The Village Bike will be showing at the Crucible Studio from September 18th until October 6th. You can book tickets here.  And now… the rant:

WARNING: Incoming  Rant. 

This is probably when y’all downvote me/flame me. It’s understandable, I’m quite possibly overanalysing this rather good play.

If you’re a guy, there’s a couple of things you either learn from this play or re-affirm, which are:

  • Pay attention to the woman you say you love.
  • Don’t be a dick.
  • A book giving pregnancy advice makes as much sense as using a spoon to row in the sea. By that daft analogy I mean don’t say “you understand”, say you “sympathise” and work with the situation, not against it, ‘cuz if your significant other is carrying your baby, well, it’s your responsibility too!

If you’re a woman and wonder what’s to learn from this play, then:

  • Guys sometimes don’t want sex. It happens. Not all are lovelorn sex machines waiting for that minute (or so) of, ehrm, close interaction.
  • It’s either the fantasy or the security. I’m sorry, trying to have both at the same time will be hard (but not impossible).
  • Throw your man’s porn stash outta the window. He’s got you, why the fuck does he need to be watching other women, yo*?

*I’m old fashioned. Sue me.

Words: Sam J. “No wonder he’ll die single” Valdés López.


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