by Stewart Parker.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 10 June 2014.
Sun, Mon 7.30pm Tue 2pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652. (24hr No booking fees).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 June.
Smooth yet exhilarating dramatic ride.
When Stewart Parker’s first play reached a London pub theatre, the King’s Head in 1976 it seemed a golden career was dawning. Yet a brief West End transfer brought recriminations involving writer, composer, director and actors. And, after success in theatre, TV and radio, within a dozen years Parker was dead, still in his forties.
Now Spokesong’s back at a pub theatre, superbly revived by Finborough associate Guy Jones. He plays to Parker’s strength, the ability to create coherence and dramatic sense out of apparently loosely-linked scenes where plot relationships and incidents do not offer any obvious sculpting around a theme.
Instead the play lives through its own playfulness and sense of truth. Frank’s inherited the Belfast cycle shop which is also his passion. It’s threatened by terrorist bombs and council bulldozers. The playful mood means it doesn’t seem improbable the young woman wanting a bike repaired is called Daisy Bell (as in ‘Give me your answer, do’) or that the sweet, non-violent Daisy should be daughter to a local paramilitary boss.
Part of this playfulness, again, is Ben Callon’s MC and collection of cameos, providing songs and bringing both sides of The Troubles into the shop.
Grandad met J B Dunlop, of tyre fame, and fought in a cycle force during World War I. Though War Bike is unlikely to follow War Horse’s success, the sense of continuity contrasting destruction, of goodness and love, is unsentimentally moving.
Time’s been kind to Parker. In the mid-70s Frank’s vision of thousands of bikes available for public use must have seemed fanciful. Now, with cycle lanes, paths and serried rows of bikes for hire in London, it seems prophecy.
Jones and designer Bethany Wells capture the freewheeling spirit of the script visually and in the flow of scenes as relationships develop and time shifts. The strong cast work as a fine ensemble in moments of choreographed cycling action, Stephen Cavanagh is resolute yet sympathetic as Frank, while Elly Condron and Melanie McHugh provide a sense of purpose in a world where the women seem a step or two ahead of the men.
Trick Cyclist: Ben Callon.
Frank: Stephen Cavanagh.
Daisy: Elly Condron.
Francis: Jack Power.
Kitty: Melanie McHugh.
Julian: Paul Mallon.
Director: Guy Jones.
Designer: Bethany Wells.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Composer/Musical Director: Ben Osborn.
Movement: Rachel Yates.