FRINGE 2016: THEATRE – Bicycle – The Treasury Tunnels at Adina Apartment Hotel – 4K

From the moment the haunting strains of violin music creep up the stairs from the basement of the old Treasury building to welcome you into the underground world, mingling with the delightful smell of candle wax as you descend into the dank chambers, the scene is carefully set for this Gothic tale of passion and liberty. While encompassing the well-known story of the supernatural Count with a thirst for the blood of young ladies, the script brings an interesting new variation to the tale. Told primarily from the point of view of one of the ladies in question, a greater emphasis is put on her own transformation and the consequences, both positive and negative, of choosing a non-conventional path in life.

Writer/performer Danielle Baynes is effervescent as the young lady, brimming with excitement at the gift of a new bicycle, intrigued by the man who has bestowed it upon her, and flushed with the anticipation of new experiences and freedom. Her enthusiasm and delight at all she encounters overpowers any feelings of foreboding or menace, while also being suitably disconcerting in its fervour.  The live music, performed by Pip Dracakis, is another vital piece of this production, effective both when it is echoing from the adjoining chambers or being drawn directly into the unfolding tale.

While the staging in the basement tunnels gives an appropriately desolate, historical, ghostly feel to the show, it is also the one major factor that goes against this production. The space is small. Even with minimal seating, the staging feels cramped into an area about half of what is needed. There are times when the movements become repetitive, possibly due to the majority of the “stage” area being taken up by the bicycle, thus leaving director Michael Dean and movement director Amanda Laing few options for variation. While the claustrophobic feel may reflect the character‘s own feelings of being trapped, it often looks awkward rather than symbolic and produces some sightline issues for certain members of the audience.  Other imagery works better – the bicycle unravelling as the lady’s control does the same is particularly well done and its employment in representing supporting characters and objects is also satisfying and judiciously used. The lighting by Matt Ralph does help to inject some variation to the staging, adding to the eerie aesthetic, and effectively indicating shifts in time and place.

This is a well-constructed piece of writing, filled with energy, humour and a more serious underlying current. The deft touches of theatricality add to the experience to make it enjoyable overall, despite the somewhat detrimental constraints of the venue.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

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