I’m Neil and I play Sam in Bicycle Boy.
The last few weeks have been a lot of fun! Shows at the Oldham Transport festival went very well and although it was sad to say goodbye to Ed Thorpe, who played Mike all too briefly, we had a wonderful weekend of shows.
We then started getting into rehearsals with a new cast member and Stage management team. Meeting the new members of the bicycle boy team , Clark, (Auntie) Kyle and David has been a joy.
They have all put a lot of hard work into getting the show ready, making sure the show is polished and running smoothly. So thank you so much guys!
Having Clark, another Scottish cast member has been lovely, and I’m really enjoying the new Scottish accent version of the show. (It’s perfect as we head up to the Edinburgh Fringe in August).
The first shows with the new team were school performances and were a really lovely experience. It’s fantastic to have an audience so excited to see what the show is about, help the characters and volunteer when ever the opportunity presents itself.
The show has so much going on during the short run time. Messages about protecting the environment, carbon emissions, cycle safety, but also relationships between brothers and the wider family that will resonate with the audience regardless of age.
Also the songs are so catchy. I promise at least one of them will be stuck in your head.
It was really heart warming to see so many children, some of whom hadn’t cycled before, getting up and involved with the show. The show's set bikes are also suitable for audience members with disabilities so everybody can get involved and help out Sam and Mike.
Every performance of this show is a pleasure to be a part of and I’m looking forward to all the upcoming dates.
Behind the Scenes
From our Technical Director, Will Alder.
Production and Stage Management is often seen as not a very creative role. However, what I love about Bicycle Boy is it is a superb example of how one has to use a lot of creativity to overcome the many obstacles that a show of this complexity presents.
For Bicycle Boy, we have to work very hard to ensure that the show works and runs in some challenging and differing circumstances on tour around the country. When we say the show is bike powered, it truly is. There are no tricks or back ups; if our audience don’t pedal hard enough, the show grinds to a halt and more often than not I hop on a bike to give it a bit of extra oomf on whatever bike is available - be that our proper adult bike right down to our kids sized recumbent!
Brighton was a brilliant example of using our practical creativity. Not only did we have to earth the inverters on a surface made almost entirely of concrete (I mean seriously, where can you bury an earth spike in concrete?!), but also because of the extremely hot weather our gramophone stopped working entirely! If you’ve seen our show you’ll know this is a fairly fundamental plot point - leaving the cast and I all rather stumped as to how to move the plot forward. Eventually we worked it out, and the show continued without a hitch. With only an hour between shows and with the rest of us doing the rather large reset, our wonderful Associate Director Keltie took off to the nearest Argos and bought a replacement, arriving just 5 minutes before the next show started!
This show is full on for our very small team. Whilst you see the cast on stage going full pelt into the multiple characters they play, I’m “behind the scenes” doing the quick changes and ensuring that the right clues are plugged in and properly switched on and connected up. I say “behind the scenes” as obviously in the outdoor touring circuit there isn’t a back stage, and we often notice that the audience really enjoy watching the quick changes take place as (spoilers!) Grandad becomes Dad becomes Mike. We’re also keeping an eye out for stage wanderers - a frequent occurrence in a show where the smallest members of our audience are practically on the stage. I consistently have to think outside the box to overcome small hitches as they come up through the show, and do everything I can to very calmly ensure the show continues on - without the audience noticing anything that could have potentially gone wrong.
The art of a good van pack is the last creative part of my role I’ll mention here. It’s essentially a huge real-life game of Tetris. So often overlooked, but when done correctly it can make a huge difference. And where this show has over 60 props, 9 bikes, 6 boxes, 10 sandbags, 6 Stage weights, 5 trunks, 6 benches, scaff poles, generators, costumes, weather proofing, bike pumps, cabling, bike stands, musical instruments, and a shed on wheels... a good van pack to ensure nothing gets damaged is vital! We tour in a van that is the biggest you can drive on a standard driving license, and we use every inch of space inside it. It takes three of us to unpack and pack it each day - and we’re collectively lifting just under a tonne’s worth of weight in and out of the van (in sections, don’t worry!) so it’s vital we lift things well to ensure we don’t injure ourselves, and that it’s packed properly so that weight doesn’t move whilst driving down some bumpy country lane!
I am so lucky to be working with such a lovely dedicated team on this show, all of whom bring unique skills to the table and encourage each other to flourish in their particular departments. Come see us on tour - we need your help to solve the clues!
Thanks to Without Walls, we've been able to increase the accessibility of Bicycle Boy for the performance at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival. Not only will the amazing folks at GDIF be providing us with a BSL interpreter for two performances on Sunday 24 June (at 2:30 and 5:30), but we're also augmenting the traditional bikes that our audience uses with some fun alternatives. We got a chance to test out a hand cycle at the Brighton Festival, and we're looking forward to taking it out for another spin at GDIF. To pedal this cycle, you use your hands instead of your feet to turn the chain and spin the wheel. It's tough, and it's a great arm workout! It's also a nice way for someone who may face barriers to pedaling a traditional bike to participate in the show. We're having a great time riding it when it's not attached to a stand and dynamo for the show!
Since the Brighton Festival, we've added one more bike to our kit. Like the hand cycle, this bike is also a recumbent cycle. When you ride a recumbent cycle, you sit in a chair with your feet out in front of you. It's super comfortable! This design is not only quite efficient, but it means that you don't need to have great balance to ride. Our new recumbent cycle is a kids bike, and it's bright yellow! This bike is hard to hook up to our generators, since the wheels are a little smaller, but we have some really awesome people figuring out how we attach the bike wheel to the dynamo so we can use this new yellow recumbent to power the show!
Rehearsals Week 2
I’m Neil, I play Sam in Bicycle Boy.
Friday was the final day of rehearsals at 3 Mills Studios in East London. Although it has been a very intensive process it has been fantastic to see this show come together is such a short space of time.
It’s been two weeks of cramming lines, learning songs and having a great time while doing it with the lovely team behind this
Audience interaction is a big part of the show which is very exciting and a little daunting at the same time, as this is something that I have never had the opportunity to do before. I’m looking forward to meeting so many new people and be able to include them in the show. The interaction makes the show different every time because with new people and new suggestions comes exciting improvisation opportunities.
For the past few days we have taken the play into the great outdoors.
We have been dealing with the British summer. Factor 50 all over and rain coats within arms reach. I’m sure we will have fun rain or shine!
The music in the show is very catchy and it has been great fun to play guitar alongside Jonathan, who plays Mike (and also the Ukulele). Don’t worry they’ll moments where everybody can join in!
Yesterday we got into Brighton which is he first stop of the tour. Six shows throughout the weekend will take place in two fantastic outdoor locations! I can’t wait to get started!
Hope to see you there!
Rehearsals Week 1
We’ve started rehearsals for Bicycle Boy and we are full on. If you’ve seen the photos of our R&D day (they’re on the home page), you’ll know this isn’t a tidy process. We’re in a lovely room at the back of So and So Arts Centre at the manor, and we’ve covered it in cables, bikes – in pieces and whole – old spanners, generators and all sorts of other bit and bobs.
Despite the mess, our amazing cast, Jon and Neil, are wandering through, playing guitars and ukuleles and banging bits of bike for percussion. The other residents of this building must think we’re mad, but they sure sound great!
We’re also really excited to be able to increase the show’s accessibility with the help of the amazing Xtrax team and the Without Walls Consortium. Thanks to the Greenwich and Docklands Festival and some amazing community groups, including London Recumbents, Cinque Ports Mobility and Wheels for Wellbeing for helping us figure out what accessible cycling equipment to bring in and where to find it. We’re really excited to show off some of our new kit at Brighton Festival 25 and 26 May!
Lots to do before then!