Tag Archives: Ride

Ride

Ride

★★★★★

Charing Cross Theatre

RIDE at the Charing Cross Theatre

★★★★★

 

Ride

“a journey into truth, emotions, reinvention, celebrity and human spirit”

 

A new musical that stormed the VAULT Festival back in March 2020 about a sporting pioneer who may have embellished the truth has blossomed into a fully-fledged show that more than proves its worth at Charing Cross Theatre.

Writers Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams explore the life of shameless self-publicist Annie Londonderry, who allegedly became the first woman to cycle solo around the world in 1895, in the captivating and lively “RIDE.”

If the original small-scale production was a beautifully crafted cross-stitch which made the most of one of the Vaults caverns, this revamped and expanded version is a well-embroidered tapestry in which every thread is perfectly placed in a brilliantly used larger space.

Born of Latvian Jewish background Annie Cohen Kopchovsky emigrated with her family to America in 1874/5 but refused to be determined by her past. History (or should that really be her story?) suggests that she wanted to write for a New York newspaper but was approached by two businessmen with a wager of $20,000 that no woman could travel around the world by bicycle in 15 months.

Despite the hype and sensationalism, it’s clear that Annie was a great saleswoman and raconteur, changing her surname to get sponsorship from a spring water company and telling increasingly tall stories during her journey which enthralled the crowds.

“RIDE” is a well-crafted musical about a fighter and storyteller with a timeless message of liberation and achievement, never afraid to present Annie’s less than admirable qualities, yet itself unashamedly being creative with a story about someone who had such a casual relationship with the truth.

At its heart is a story of a New Woman eager for change in society. Scrutinising her claims amidst so much showmanship and self-promotion is part of the fun of this indefatigable show, which tells the tale as honestly as it is able given that it is largely selling the reality of a fake American dream.

There are more songs and a longer running time, yet even now the show seems to be pedalling furiously to be something bigger. Still, with Amy Jane Cook’s design the stage is opened up to allow a journey into imagination and the performances are suitably larger than life.

The setting is a newspaper office where an enthusiastic Annie persuades reluctant and sceptical secretary Martha to help recount her deeds. It is a two-hander where both performers triumph, balancing and playing off each other with care and skill.

As Annie, Liv Andrusier has an egocentric Barnum-like presence, though showing off herself and her accomplishments rather than a collection of circus acts, walking a tightrope between truth and fiction as she agitates and elaborates. She roars her way through the lively numbers – the title song remains a fierce showstopper, one of the best new songs in a contemporary musical; she is bold and brazen as she recounts her truth (“Everybody Loves a Lie” is a paean to the art of humbug) yet grasps the vulnerable as she recalls her family and background in the face of loneliness, anti-Semitism, insults and struggles as a feisty woman in a man’s world.

Yuki Sutton’s Martha is a gem, the timid and dubious assistant becoming a mistress of fabrication, not only taking over the story but also elaborating upon it, becoming a commanding presence in her own right.

While the characters begin as opposites, each suspicious of the other, they gradually learn from and believe in each other, with their contrasts keeping each other on track. And Andrusier and Sutton perform soaring duets that set the stage on fire with vivacious harmony and intensity.

Director Sarah Meadows captures the sense of façade without losing sight of the personal stories, however hard the facts may be to grasp. There is colour, light and shadow in a production that never once glows dull.

The small band excites the moment they play their first note. Led by energetic conductor Sam Young on keys, with Frankie South on guitar and Alex Maxted on percussion, the musicians show understanding of and enthusiasm for every cracking musical number, all of which are memorable and of the highest quality.

Originally produced by Bottle Cap Theatre it is no surprise that the show was snapped up by Deus Ex Machina Productions, who surely recognised the show’s beating heart of liberation from trauma and expectations, courage in adversity and the embrace of change and progression.

Smith and Williams write with depth and quality and it’s hard to believe that the near-perfect smaller show has been developed into something even better. They must be contenders for one of the best writing partnerships out there and with “RIDE” they have created a work of fresh energy, and unbelievable fun.

Magically profound and stunningly creative this might just be one of the best musicals this year, a journey into truth, emotions, reinvention, celebrity and human spirit.

 

Reviewed on 31st August 2022

by David Guest

Photography by Danny Kaan

 

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

Pippin | ★★★★ | July 2021
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | November 2021

 

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

Ride

Ride

★★★★

VAULT Festival 2020

Ride

Ride

Forge – The Vaults

Reviewed – 4th March 2020

★★★★

 

“a bouncy new British musical about a gutsy fighter with a bold message”

 

Only those with a Mastermind knowledge of women cyclists are likely to have heard of Annie Londonderry, who in 1895 became the first woman to cycle solo around the world.

She became a global celebrity, but her accomplishment was only half of the story: in new musical “Ride” writers Freya Smith and Jack Williams explore the life of this shameless self-publicist who set out to break down preconceptions of exactly what women can achieve.

It’s a bouncy new British musical about a gutsy fighter with a bold message of liberation and achievement yet never shies away from presenting Annie’s less than admirable qualities.

She was born Annie Kopchovsky but hid her Latvian Jewish background and family situation to undertake the cycle ride in 15 months, setting off from Boston saying the trip was the result of a bet between two businessmen.

Trying to sift through her claims is part of the fun of this brassy show, which features an impressive ten memorable songs as it charts the story of an indefatigable show-woman with a vivid imagination, a knack for self promotion (even her new surname stemmed from a sponsorship deal with a spring water company) and a woman’s heart beating for change.

The setting is a newspaper office where an eager Annie (a spirited Amy Parker) ropes in reluctant secretary Martha (Amelia Gabriel, developing the character from timorous to assertive) to recount her deeds – “more than a cycling activity… a liberation!” Both performers capture the personality of their characters perfectly (starting off as opposites but refining themselves as they learn from and believe in each other) and show off fine singing voices to do full justice to the lively score.

In many ways it is a cross between Maxine Peake’s “Beryl,” the story of Yorkshire’s cycling champion Beryl Burton recently revived at the Arcola, and Queen of the Mist,” Michael John LaChiusa’s musical about Annie Edson Taylor, who determined to be the first person to survive going over the Niagara Falls in a barrel.

But this Bottle Cap Theatre offering courageously faces up to the reality of flawed heroism and gritty determination in a show that strains at the leash to be something very much bigger. While one song proclaims that “Everybody Loves a Lie” there’s a message of never losing sight of who you are to become someone unfamiliar and the joyous challenge of embracing change and progression.

Smith and Williams write with a depth and quality that ensures that even within an all too brief 65 minutes a rounded story is presented which never merely skims the surface. Smith also directs and makes the most of the accomplished performers as well as using every inch of the small set, attractively dressed with period furniture which is cleverly used throughout assisted by careful moody lighting (Tim Kelly).

The writers also play in the dynamic four-piece band on guitar and keys, joined by James Pugliese on bass and Tim Harvey on drums, setting the tone for a new show that genuinely feels fresh and is filled with some lovely melodies which journey between strident, romantic and quietly powerful.

“Ride” is an exciting new musical about people searching for a destination and overcoming self-doubt and it clearly has a life beyond the confines of the seedbed VAULT Festival.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

 

VAULT Festival 2020

 

 

Click here to see all our reviews from VAULT Festival 2020