The narrative in Motion reminded me of a relentless drive amongst (certain) cyclists to push on regardless, which can have concerning consequences when such riders are making their way across London. I once witnessed an ambulance with sirens blaring coming to a screeching halt because a cyclist ploughed on at a crossroads when every other cyclist, vehicle and pedestrian had stopped.
Just a couple of hours before seeing this production, I saw a police officer on a pedal bicycle yelling at a cyclist, trying to get her to pull over. When I caught up with them a few minutes later – they had stopped just outside the entrance to the Tube station I was walking towards – the police officer was furious. I didn’t stick around long enough to discover the misdemeanour, or even if there was one, but the uniformed PC was unimpressed with the cyclist telling him that she didn’t want to stop because she was running late.
For Melissa (Sally Reichardt), things are a little tougher than a cycle ride to and from work. Competing at a professional level has its own challenges, but the tunnel vision is very much evident – as she points out, her daily routine becomes a cycle (so to speak) of training, sleeping, and eating within the parameters of a strictly controlled dietary plan. I assume showering and teeth-brushing is in the routine somewhere too, or at least one would hope so. The dietary regime is so stringent Melissa is unable to consume the usual sorts of food and drink served at a wedding reception, and she is only there at all because the bride is her sister.
As I overheard someone say when I was in Sheffield recently, “There’s nowt wrong with ambition”. And sometimes sacrifices are necessary to achieve personal goals. In both the descriptions and demonstrations of Melissa’s thoughts and actions, it was interesting to how much success was measured by being better than others. It has always been that way with competitions, and probably always will be, but there’s a price to be paid one way or another by doing anything and everything possible to be faster than those who themselves are trying to be faster than everyone else too.
Is there a metaphor with regards to moving too fast in this play? Answering that directly would be giving too much away, though I will say there’s a substantial amount of rhyming verse, with the wit and intelligence that plot-heavy poetry tends to provide. The set is straightforward and as uncluttered as the storyline, and the performance from Reichardt is compelling and full to bursting with charisma and passion. I’d have laughed in the face (even if only from within) of anyone who told me a show about cycling could be so interesting.
The play does not, thankfully, expose the audience to impenetrable cycling jargon. The flipside of the glory and the fame is revealed to be overwhelming and unwanted, mostly (as I understand it) for its intrusive nature and an insatiable demand for the tiniest details of what Melissa is up to, or how gruelling her training in the run-up to a major international cycling competition becomes. Once the show’s critical incident irrevocably changes things for Melissa, there’s an eventual redemption, though it comes in a way she would be very unlikely to have envisaged beforehand.
A number of other characters besides Melissa are insufficiently developed. Perhaps if the play were to expand to two acts we might get to know a bit more about the sister and the trainer, amongst others. But, as it is, this is a personal, good-humoured and dynamic production. Highly recommended.
Review by Chris Omaweng
It’s about Faith.
Devotion to higher being and in this case that being is me…versus you.
In a flash of movement and spoken word, show creators’ Sally Reichardt and Rosie Frecker take you deep into the machinations of the professional cycling world. Inspired by some of the biggest stories of past three years, Motion explores the truths and often dark secrets behind one of the world’s toughest sporting professions. Almost entirely influenced from both performers’ spoken word backgrounds, Motion reaches new heights in storytelling.
This performance begins at 7:30pm, latecomers may not be admitted.
Run time: 60mins, no interval.