Vault Festival: Ride

Where

Forge at The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.

When

3-8 Mar at 7.30pm (plus 4.30pm on the 7th).

Who

Written (book, music,lyrics) by Freya Smith and Jack Williams, and directed by Smith. Lighting by Tim Kelly, costumes by Anna Smith. Produced by Bottle Cap Theatre and performed by Amy Parker and Amelia Gabriel.

What

“Who was Annie before she was Annie Londonderry, record-breaking cyclist? And who would she be afterwards?” (Writer’s note by Freya Smith).

Amelia Gabriel and Amy Parker in Ride. Courtesy Bottle Cap Theatre.
Amelia Gabriel and Amy Parker in Ride. Courtesy Bottle Cap Theatre.

How

Ride is a hugely enjoyable new British musical by Freya Smith and Jack Williams, concentrated on the tale of Annie Londonderry (born Kopchovsky) who became the first woman to cycle round the world in 1894-5.

This is a version of her story, told by Annie with the help of her secretary Martha (whose initial reticence turns into a fine singing voice in a snatch of Daisy Bell). Annie is an adventurer, a dreamer, a charlatan, who hides her family situation and Jewish background in the same way she discards a long skirt for a cycling outfit “made for men”.

The ten songs (particularly Ride, Miles Away from Boston and Stranger) are already accomplished and memorable, and the four-piece band are perfectly pitched,so as to not overpower the singers. There are some lovely melodies here and a real sense of female emancipation through music.

Amy Parker has a strong presence, a fleeting resemblance to Stockard Channing, and piercing blue eyes and her voice can be both soothing and strident. Amelia Gabriel, who starts mousy as Marths but becomes a strong rock for her employer, is good at the various parts (male and female) who appear in the story.

Amy Parker in rehearsal. Courtesy Bottle Cap Theatre.
Amy Parker in rehearsal. Courtesy Bottle Cap Theatre.

The tale of Annie Londonderry isn’t as simple as “woman rides bike round the world”. She’s the equivalent of the fairground quack who sells you restorative mixtures and pills. For her, Annie Kopchovsky is the woman she packs away so she can do whatever she wants to do.

But Ride still has that flavour of celebration, and I found myself tapping my foot and enjoying myself from the first number. Composers Smith and Williams are in the band: she’s on keys, he’s on guitar and is also the MD. With James Pugliese on bass and Tim Harvey on drums, they provide a close-knit, cohesive unit.

I particularly enjoyed the lighting by Tim Kelly, utilising mood and warmth and flooding the Forge space to enhance the musical numbers. The set is simple (no one is specifically credited); and chairs stand for bicycles, unlike the static race bikes provided in Beryl – the recent show about woman pioneer Beryl Burton.

Annie Londonderry. Wikipedia Commons.
Annie Londonderry. Wikipedia Commons.

Judgement: Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

It’s a rousing Wow for Ride, which didn’t even figure on my initial run of shows, but I’m glad I could fit it in. I really hope this show goes on to have a future life as it really does deserve it.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Ride.

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