Review: RIDE: a new musical, Forge (Vault Festival)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Freya Smith and Jack Williams’ brand-new musical RIDE, is quite simply sensational. An endlessly fresh and innovative musical delivered by only two actors and four musicians, brimming with plenty of heart, rhythm and story, this one is not to be missed.

Bolstering a strong narrative, RIDE is proficiently bold, well-written, engaging and thoroughly entertaining. Set in 1895 and following 24 year old Annie Londonderry, who has returned victorious to America as the first woman to cycle around the world, this vibrant female-led two-hander, wonderfully enacts as Annie telling and embellishing the story of her travels. With the unwitting assistance of a secretary named Martha, she delivers the retelling to several big-wig New York editors, aiming to demonstrate her versatility and secure a paid newspaper column. Smith and Williams thus, phenomenally capture Annie’s mounting ambition and irreverent charm. A blaring ambition and persuasive ability that often caused a tendency in her to focus on story over fact, Annie’s wild imagination and idealistic pitching of her story being tumultuously staged here. The piece augmenting in this, a fantastic amount of depth, as it touches upon the parts of Annie’s life she’d perhaps rather leave hidden and not confront, such as her Latvian immigrant status and Jewish heritage, (particularly in a period rife with anti-Semitic tropes, Annie Kopchovsky being her real name). As well as illuminating on the heart-wrenching death of Annie’s younger brother Jacob and the leaving of her own children in order to cycle around the world. Doing much to paint and explain Annie’s motivations, financial or otherwise, whilst gravitationally demonstrating just how easy it is to manipulate a press story for widespread appeal.

As aforementioned the work is strikingly well-written; a salient narrative, delivered with an imaginative, comedically-rich and vivacious book, that is paired with 10 simply outstanding songs. Smith and Williams’ score being characterised by its harmonic intricacies and repetitive motifs, making it catchy, smart, euphonious and most importantly, entertaining. These are certainly two writers to watch out for. Likewise, Smith’s direction, with help from Associate Director & Dramaturg Adam Lenson, is dynamic and assured, doing much to perpetuate and bring to life the many facets of Annie, bringing in turn, a lot of colour to Martha’s character. A character that could quite easily have remained two dimensional as a subordinate to the dominance of Annie, exploited by her into the role of a storytelling tool. The storytelling, story within a story nature of the writing, is furthermore mirrored perfectly in the staging and minimal set, allowing for Annie and Martha to manipulate the elements of the office space, such as filling cabinets, a writing desk, documents, flowers, a hat and coat-stand and more, these becoming wonderfully suggestive of various characters and locations, desk chairs instantaneously becoming bicycles travelling the breadth of the earth at speed.

As far as performances go, Amy Parker’s Annie is suitably boisterous and tricky, as she must be in order to try and play in a man’s world. Yet, Parker is also subtly able to convey Annie’s inner turmoil, and thus the truth she is running away from. Parker’s performance is therefore, beautifully dynamic, her Annie remaining unequivocally layered, she is charming and tenacious, yet burdened and visibly desperate. Parker also displays incredible vocal tonality. Whilst Amelia Gabriel, the Martha to Parker’s Annie, complements her perfectly. Not only is Gabriel’s voice equally as stunning, her timid, yet reliable Martha bounces from fear to joy in an instant, Gabriel providing some seriously sensational characterisation. Her facial expressions and physical abilities are unparalleled, Gabriel truly capturing the dedicated and intelligent employee, looking for excitement and true appreciation, but too afraid to overstep her mark and lose it all. Both demonstrating just how malleable and dexterous they are as performers. Whilst the four piece band consisting of writers Jack Williams and Freya Smith, James Pugliese and Tim Harvey are wonderful performers, despite their size they do much to fill out the sound and play in a particularly stylised manner, providing a distinctive and eclectic sound.

Bottle Cap Theatre’s RIDE plays VAULT Festival until Sunday, click here to book now.

 

Annie (& Monticello/Yates): Amy Parker

Martha (& Yates/Celine/Fred): Amelia Gabriel

Book, Music and Lyrics: Freya Smith & Jack Williams

MD/Guitar: Jack Williams

Keys: Freya Smith

Bass: James Pugliese

Drums: Tim Harvey

Director: Freya Smith

Associate Director & Dramaturg: Adam Lenson

Movement Director: Alfred Taylor-Gaunt

Production Manager: Hannah Roza Fisher

Lighting Designer: Tim Kelly

Costume: Anna Smith

Associate Producer: Naomi Chapman

PR: Michael Bodansky

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