5 star acting in a 4 star execution of a 3 star idea for a play. The idea that women just can't help getting emotionally involved, with people they have sex with, feels tired and cliched, whether it is true or not. But the dialogue is sparkling, witty and funny, and the characters are intrinsically interesting beyond the situations they find themselves in, so kudos to the playwright for lifting the material above it's mundane essence. What makes this play a brilliant night of theatre is some stand out acting that knocks the socks off what is being described as great acting in a lot of other plays just now (Richard III being one of them). Phil Cornwell is believable and likeable as a randy plumber. Dominic Rowan reanimates a young Oliver Reed in a swaggering earthy sensual rendition of what it is to be a man and have casual meaningless sex. Nicholas Burns is understated, unassuming, utterly believable and hilariously funny as the dolt of a husband who doesn't seem to realise that rejecting his wife's sexual advances will encourage her to stray. But this is the Romola Garai show: she is AMAZING - believable, sensitive, sexy, bewildered, responsive, reactive, still, animated, empowered, humiliated, she just does it all with such astonishing in-the-moment truthfulness. It seems somehow unfair that only 80 people a night get to see this! - Steve
23 Jul 11
There was a risk that The Village Bike could have repeated the mistakes of the previous sexual drama Upstairs at The Royal Court and it seemed at first that Penelope Miller had avoided the peurile drivel that was Wanderlust. Pregnant and sex-starved Becky finds relief from her husband's porn DVDs and apparently ordinary encounters with the plumber and the man delivering her new bike are hilariously reminiscent of the porn she has become addicted to. Even the title proves to be a clever double entendre. Unfortunately when she embarks on an affair with the repellent Oliver it all becomes a bit tawdry and the subtlety disappears. It's nearly saved by a superb final scene when Becky's husband confronts her with a version of the truth - surely the first time a Tesco carrier bag has been used as a metaphor for adultery. Romola Garai gives an excellent and brave performance as Becky even though the plausibility of the character diminishes as the play progresses. Amongst the superb supporting cast Alexandra Gilbreath is particularly good as the interfering neighbour and she's a dead ringer for Steppenwolf's Laurie Metcalf. The Village Bike is nearly a 4-star play but it loses it's way a bit and I've rounded it down to 3 because the Royal Court makes you queue on a very hot staircase and because a matinee should not finish at nearly 6 o'clock. - David Baxter
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