I volunteered to cover this without knowing anything about it, and when I had a quick look at some blurb claiming that it was yet another Brexit-themed piece I admit my heart sank a little. Fear not. Yes, Brexit is talked about, argued over and looming in the background, as it probably has for the majority of the UK population over the last couple of years, but I wouldn’t say it was the focal point. It is a very amusing story about two people just attempting to get on with life.
Don (John Godber) and Carol (Jane Thornton) have both lost a spouse and are feeling lonely and isolated in their grief. That, and an interest in cycling, is about all they have in common though. Ex-miner Don is now working as a hospital porter, nearing retirement and just about making ends meet. Ex-school teacher Carol opened a cycling café when her architect husband died, and is comfortable financially. After a couple of chance meetings, at a graveyard and the hospital, they seem to recognise kindred spirits and arrange to meet up again. Carol persuades Don to join her on a two thousand pound bike ride to Florence, even though he has to scrimp and save and live on ‘bread and water’ for a time to be able to afford it. Realising her faux pas when she offers to led Don the funds, to save money Carol buys a tandem for them to make the journey on.
Godber and Thornton are both excellent as the protagonists, and as the ghosts of the deceased partners who appear whenever Don or Carol are having second thoughts. The characters are portrayed with sympathy and realism, and great comic timing. This is a very funny play, with laughs coming regularly and often throughout the two hours. Carol holds her own, but gruff Don has the best one liners, delivered by Godber in a deadpan, matter of fact way. The physicality and eye watering consequences of a long distance cycle ride wearing Lycra also present material for some physical humour.
A very detailed cycling café set provides the biking back drop. I’m not so sure what the ‘Scary’ refers to, unless it is taking up long-distance cycling in your 60s. Melancholic piano music at the start hints at the loss and grief experienced by the two characters, but not at the humour to come. The suitably themed and dated background music is not intrusive, listen out for some interesting variations on the European Anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
The style of delivery is a curious mix of the characters addressing the audience one minute, then immediately speaking to each other as though the audience are not there. It works though, drawing you in to their world as though you are part of their circle of friends. The smaller of the Trafalgar Studios is the perfect setting, and some of the intimacy would be lost in a much larger venue. Overall, a gentle but very funny and entertaining evening. Highly recommended.
Author and Director: John Godber
Production Manager: Graham Kirk
Box Office: 0800 912 6959
Booking Link: https://www.whatsonstage.com/shows/west-end-theatre/scary-bikers_181216
Booking Until: 27 April 2019