Village people tackle stereotypes in riveting tale of sex and parenthood
THE Village Bike begins, aptly enough, in the bedroom. Schoolteacher Becky (Gabrielle Scawthorn) and her husband John (Benedict Wall) have moved to a rural English village, but all is not rosy in their new home.
Besides a noisy plumbing problem (“sweaty pipes”), Becky is newly pregnant, and anxious about how motherhood will affect her identity. What’s more, she is feeling incredibly horny.
John, meanwhile, seems to have gone completely off sex and is more interested in reading parenting manuals and ethical shopping than satisfying Becky’s needs.
Though John doesn’t want her cycling, Becky insists on buying a second-hand bike from local lothario Oliver (Rupert Reid) and before long she is living out Oliver’s erotic fantasies while his wife is away.
Written by Penelope Skinner, The Village Bike proved a big hit when it premiered at London’s Royal Court in 2011.
The dark comedy starts off like a sitcom, with lots of laughs, but in the second act it veers into more provocative territory as it explores the Madonna/Whore complex, with Becky caught somewhere in the middle.
Upending stereotypes about sexuality and parenting, and examining the way obsessive desire can take you over, Skinner poses spiky questions about how women continue to be punished if they behave outside socially accepted norms.
Rachel Chant directs a well-honed production on an impressive two-storey set by Anna Gardiner and Martelle Hunt.
Scawthorn is riveting as Becky. Her uninhibited emotional investment is so absolute that the character feels intensely real, and she glows in the role.
Wall has the drippy, passive aggressive John down to a tee.
Reid is equally convincing as the sleazy Oliver, while Kate Bookallil makes a powerful impact in a brief appearance as Oliver’s knowing wife.
Jamie Oxenbould as a widowed plumber and Sophie Gregg as a fraught neighbour complete the terrific cast.
Benedict Wall and Gabrielle Scawthorn.