Vil­lage peo­ple tackle stereo­types in riv­et­ing tale of sex and par­ent­hood

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER - JO LITSON

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.

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