Bicycle Boy (Playhouse Plays Out, Oxford)

Bicycle Boy is the latest in the Playhouse Plays Out series. It’s a family friendly show aimed at 5-8yr olds. It tells the story of Sam as he sets about clearing out the family bike workshop after 59 years and three generations because the developers are coming. He is ‘helped’ by his go getting brother whose approach is rather more ruthless and involves a lot of black bin bags!

Sam remembers that his Grandad promised him a very special present when he could finally ride without stabilisers but Grandad died so he never got it, and now it’s too late… or is it?

Writer and director, Helen Eastman, wanted a setting without power to exploit the possibilities of pedal power and the shed at Osney Marina proved to be a perfect setting. The designer and stage team have been so thorough that it is hard to believe that there had been anything else there for the last 59 years but bikes and bits of bikes.

It’s fast, pacey and fun – the children were absorbed, often ahead of action and most of the adults were grinning throughout. I learned something about power (my 15 seconds of very hard pedalling provided the power to solve one clue!), but it never felt like a lesson. And, whilst aimed at younger ones, the technology the team are using is innovative and there were plenty of interested parents examining the bikes at the end and wondering if a few of those in a shed would reduce the family’s power bills.

But don’t take my word for it; here is the view from my apprentice reviewer, Megan:

I felt involved from the moment I arrived, it was very untidy, I helped bicycle boy tidy up because there was lots of old junk lying around.

There was no electricity in the workshop, but when anybody rode a bicycle the power came on and all sorts of amazing things happened!

Bicycle Boy had a problem, his granddad had a present for him for when he finally took his stabilizers off his bike, but sadly grandad died, Bicycle Boy grew up wondering what the present was and discovered clues which we had to solve, it was like a treasure hunt.

I laughed when Bicycle Boy and his brother wore superhero pants doing acrobatics, I really loved the songs and it felt like magic when the lights went on while I was riding the bike.

Grandad was cool, just like my Grampy.

I felt sad the workshop was closing so they can build flats on it.
But the best part of the show was that I got to open the final clue and found the answer.

And from her dad, Andrew:
I found the show to be very entertaining and thought provoking, I would highly recommend it for children and parents alike.
I hadn’t been on a saddle for over20 years, it felt great, everybody gets to have a go, the children become part of the show the moment they walk through the door.

My six year old daughter loved it; she laughed, clapped, shouted out, held up cards, sang along, rode a bike and enjoyed working out the clues to solve the puzzle.

It reminded me that electricity (that we all take for granted) doesn’t just appear out of thin air…

So, if you want to make some electricity and discover what that very special present that Grandad made all those years ago was… you’ll just have to go and find that workshop at Osney Marina!

Reviewers: Megan Panes (6) and Andrew Pledge (39) assisted by Kate Saffin (roughly the same age as the workshop),