Red Stitch’s first production for 2016 is the Australian premiere of UK playwright Penelope Skinner’s award-winning and hilarious look at monogamy, pornography and desire.
The Village Bike is a fiercely erotic play, written with passion by Skinner, which serves to overthrow all preconceived ideas about sexual desire, sexual frustration and sexual behaviours. It also seeks to examine the humanness within oft considered taboo behaviour.
Director Ngaire Dawn Fair explains: “Skinner explores the normalisation of pornography, marital dysfunction, communication, social convention, desire and fantasy. The play asks us if we can safely explore all facets of ourselves and fulfill our biological needs in our current society.”
The play centres around Becky (Ella Caldwell), a newly pregnant young wife and schoolteacher. Becky must manage an increased appetite for sex with a partner who has gone off sex completely. She must find a way to assuage her appetite – and she does. Skinner is intent on dissolving traditional notions about male and female sexuality, as well as other stereotypes, before the play’s ending.
Says Dawn Fair: ” The Village Bike is about a couple who suffer from parental anxiety. Becky is a very sexually charged woman and her husband John can’t fulfil her needs. I hope the audience walks out chatting and debating about their own lives, sexuality and relationships. I hope it evokes communication.”
The play is dark in parts but hysterical in others – it’s a roller coaster ride of emotion for Caldwell – but it is a play that Red Stitch had no choice but to do.
“Initially the Red Stitch ensemble was interested in this play because it’s super sexy, fun and provocative,” explains Dawn Fair. “When we found ourselves passionately debating the plays sexual politics, hours, days and weeks later, we thought that it had to be programmed. The play is originally set in England and I have decided to set it in Australia. It’s exciting for me to see how universal the story is.”
National Theatre graduate, Dawn Fair has well and truly earned her acting stripes with glowing reviews for plays like The Flick, Eurydice and 4000 Miles. She has been part of the Red Stitch ensemble since 2012 and is now turning her hand to directing. Dawn Fair works work well with a director who isn’t afraid to tell her if she’s heading down the wrong path, who pulls her up on her habits and helps her to make a transformation that supports the story in the best way possible.
Caldwell’s summation suggests that all of the above, and more, is true in a Dawn Fair lead rehearsal room.: “We have Ngaire Dawn Fair as Director and I can’t express how fulfilling it is to have a fellow ensemble member with such passion and insight guiding us through this journey.”
While Dawn Fair loves the challenges both acting and directing offer she doesn’t have a favourite part within the process stating that everyday is full of highs and lows, problem solving, revelations, back tracking, frustrations and magic moments. “I always love it when we get the lights in and the edges of reality dissolve,” she says. “Directing is a full circle experience, it’s surreal to see something that has been inhabiting my imagination for so long actually play out before me and there’s great satisfaction in that. Acting is never satisfying, you can never sit back and take it in, but the catharsis of connecting with actors and the audience is unparalleled.”
The Village Bike plays at Red Stitch till March 5