Ride at Vault Festival
Ride is one to watch. It wouldn’t surprise me if it won the VAULT People’s Choice Award, as Freya Smith and Jack Williams have a formidable musical on their hands. With a few minor adjustments, I could see this powerhouse show going a lot further in its future.
Amy Parker plays Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world. Parker is phenomenal. She commands the stage with her charm, charisma and incredible stamina – the phrase, ‘some people have just got it’ was no doubt written with Parker in mind.
The first 15 minutes of the show were just brilliant – a wonderfully watchable chaos of an introduction into the world of Annie Londonderry. Amy Parker utilised every bit of the witty and punchy script to either command or entertain. The opening was flawless, naturally full of character too – and kudos must go to Alfred Taylor-Gaunt for his captivating movement direction in the second number – so clever and just hilarious. I could’ve watched Parker talk and command the stage for the full hour and a half with script and perfect comedic timing like that. She didn’t drop a single line, or let a single comedy moment pass by.
The patter Smith & Williams deliver is the best feature of the script, I just wanted more of it! If they’d continued to build on the patter, the wit, and sharp conversation for longer into the show before the more emotional side of it, I’d have been thrilled.
The score was beautiful. The songs were catchy, well timed, and as I listened to each of them, my mind was already thinking about looking to see if there was a soundtrack. Amelia Gabriel, who played Martha Smith, blended her voice beautifully with Parker’s and, especially the first time they sang together, you could almost feel the goosebumps in the room.
The connection between the two actresses was beautiful – some moments emotionally were really lovely to watch – the connection between Celine and Annie being a particular standout. Gabriel is a strong actress who performed the part well, she had a difficult job to keep up with the tour-de-force that Parker presented and hold her own, but she did well. Occasionally, I think her nervous character became a default in her singing, and it became slightly distracting though.
My main gripe with Ride, and it’s not a big one, with the production was the dynamic flow – instead of 2 emotional ‘plot halters’, I felt it needed only one for the hour and 20 minutes that we had. The first came slightly too early, before we cared enough about the characters yet, and felt slightly emotionally odd to come from Martha – in such a short show, you can’t fully delve into two characters backstories and so I felt like Martha could have been more of an accessory, so we could really focus on Annie, rather than having so many unanswered questions about Martha, and slightly rushing Annie’s timeline. Just one breakdown, Annie’s towards the end, would’ve been much more effective at building the audience into her remarkable embellished story, then bringing them back – we would’ve cared more about the characters. We fully believed that Martha had joined in, we didn’t need her to have doubts that early and it just raised questions about her character that couldn’t be answered in such a short time.
The creative team used the thrust theatre well, which is tricky, and only occasionally did I think some seats would’ve missed an emotional facial expression or so. Again, Taylor-Gaunt did beautifully by utilising the office chairs as bikes, and did well choreographing the turns on wheels effortlessly so they played to the full seating arrangement. If the band were slightly repositioned, and the drawers more mobile, it may have given the actors more room to really extend the lovely movement, but this thought only crossed my mind once or twice throughout.
This musical is a hit no doubt, and Freya Smith and Jack Williams are a pair to watch for sure – I will race back to see anything they create, have great faith in their work, and I’m excited to watch their careers blossom.
Review by Mims Melville
Ride is on at the Vault Festival is on until 8th March. Find out more on the festivals website.