BMX tricks in the shadow of the Olympic Park. A DJ and a generator. It sounds more street than Shakespeare, but all this can be found at Bicycle Thieves, the latest play to hit East London.
The performance is based on the 1940s award-winning Italian film, Ladri di biciclette, which tells the story of a man searching the streets for his stolen bike; his lifeline in post-war poverty.
The story resonates particularly strongly with director Henriette Baker, whose own bicycle was stolen just a couple of weeks ago.
“We realised that we were crowding the corridor so we reluctantly parked them on a lamppost outside our flat,” she explains.
But the domestic scene soon turned sour, when thieves scouted the cycles and drove up one Saturday morning.
“I was so looking forward to getting on my bike and cycling up the road to rehearsals,” she says, and notes the irony: “It’s a bit like the play!”
The play has indeed been modernised, with BMX bikes replacing the rickety frames of the original film. Paddy Waters, a circus-trained tricks choreographer, has been training the six cycle performers.
The play’s producer, Vicky Graham, admits the experience has been quite the education: “The performers are very specific about their BMX’s. They’re finely honed instruments, and customised – it’s a whole world we’ve been learning about!”
The team have also learnt how to build a generator, as the Bicycle Thieves DJ is to be powered entirely by pedal.
Bike Works are donating two bikes for the audience to keep the volume up. “The audience are encouraged to come to the performance by bike, and they are welcome to attach their bikes to the generator!” says Vicky.
She hopes the audience will come early and spend time discovering the cycle paths of East London.
Henriette agrees that Bicycle Thieves is aimed especially at bike lovers, but the play is likely to surprise even the veteran cyclists: “Come to the show with a very open mind, because it is going to be quite different!”
The play is showing at The View Tube in East London from 1 to 6 July, and at Folly for a Flyover on 17 July.
Tickets cost £8 (£5 concessions); book via the Pip Productions website.