I was incredibly apprehensive about my second trip to the Bike Shed Theatre. On my first experience, I went to see a play called ‘After the Accident’, which was a fictional dramatization of the aftermath of the death of a young girl hit by a car. Overtly tragic and distressing, my hysterical reaction to it was one of the most humiliating things of my life. I am notorious amongst my friends for reacting inappropriately to situations I find uncomfortable and cannot handle. But the audience and cast obviously had not been warned that I shouldn’t be let out the house. If you have ever been to the Bike Shed Theatre, you will know the intimacy of the productions, having a maximum capacity of 54. I eagerly made my friend and I sit right slap bang in the middle on the front row. The actors picked eye contact with these exact positions, and once I begun laughing, (triggered by the awkward silent opening and not innocent death), I couldn’t stop. My friend had to hold my legs from shaking. She’s never been to the theatre with me again to this day.
I hate spoken word. Even as an English student, I cannot stand the pretention of it. We all know the stereotypical performer- a stubbly vegan who wears hand-me-downs and non-prescription circular glasses, and thinks they’re Karl Marx. And with a ridiculous name like ‘Wanderlust’, I was convinced my date was going to regret the day he met me. Stream of consciousness can be verbal diarrhoea. But thankfully not in this production, because I would probably have been kicked out.
Purposely seated near the back, we overlooked a minimalist stage consisting of a useless wooden construction, a microphone, and a desk with a laptop on top. The ‘cast’ featured two males: the spoken word performer (Chris White), and his technician (Hal Kelly), ominously centred in the middle, sitting on his laptop controlling the sound and lightning. The performer told a lengthy tale about his usual commute to work, but today there was a new face on the train. His life-altering attraction to him opens a whole can of worms. He misses his stop, follows this ‘boy’ all the way to Coventry, admits that the boy is young enough to be his son, and justifies cheating on his boyfriend because they’ve fallen out of love. Chasing after this boy in Coventry, he realizes he’s stalking. He’s running so fast that he has to stop for lack of breath, and this period of rest releases trauma from the pains of growing up as a homosexual, channelled through stream of consciousness. This gut wrenchingly emotional performance squeezes issues of homophobia, familial ties, obligation, and religion into only a short set.
The only bit I found uncomfortable was the ending. The Bike Shed advertised its running time as one hour, so when it finished the audience remained silently seated for a few very long minutes, waiting for him to proceed once more. An employee had to open the stage doors to make us realize it was over…this was received negatively by a significant portion of the audience, as some did not applaud. We were sandwiched in between two separate miserable parties, both bemoaning its ‘interesting’ content (strangely implying controversial), and its length. But I clapped until my hands hurt. The speaker was phenomenal and faultlessly rehearsed; we can hardly blame him for wanting to stop after performing a 36 minute script singlehandedly. I recommend taking up the opportunity to see spoken word at The Bike Shed- just don’t sit at the front, and don’t be put off by awful titles.