The White Bike at the Space
Have you ever had a narrow escape from a road accident? What if you didn’t escape at all – how long would it take you to realise? The White Bike delves into the familiar ghost-who-doesn’t-know-they’re-a-ghost trope, but the subtleness, the clever writing and the cyclist angle make an old tale seem unique. This is the most human and probably most convincing ghost story to be seen on stage for a long time.
There is a sense of suspense during the first half of the play because we know something tragic is going to happen. This is further highlighted by a clever mix of low lighting and ominous music choices, keeping the audience on edge and focused; but the script is clever and subtle enough that we will only start to realise what has happened at the same time as the protagonist, Isabelle.
This is a minimalist performance on a small, dimly lit, egg-shaped stage. The cast relies on a mixture of lighting, sound, video imagery, physical theatre, verbal descriptions and a few props – such as various bike parts – and they are able to utilise these resources to take the audience on a journey through the roads of Hackney, as well as to a hospital, a night club, a house and more. The darkness of the stage effectively highlights the sense of impending doom, and the understated yet effective use of lighting helps gives us a sense of someone in limbo, caught between two worlds.
This is one of the few shows that actually feels more effective in a smaller setting because the intimacy works with the script and makes us feel like Isabelle is talking directly to us. It can be hard to make a story like this convincing, especially on a small stage with limited resources, but all the actors (especially Josephine Starte as Isabelle) perform very well. This piece will leave theatregoers shaken, sad and very wary of roads, and will stick in the mind long after leaving the venue.
One of the play’s central themes is ordinariness. Someone is cycling along in their own little world, they are hit by a truck, and the world continues to turn even if theirs has now stopped forever. The words “ordinary” and “ghost story” may not sound like they work together, but this is actually what makes The White Bike so strong. Tragedy isn’t always forewarned and we can’t always predict it – the ordinariness of it all reminds the audience that this could happen to anyone.
The White Bike has a clear message about road safety at its heart. The story of Isabelle was written in memory of Eilidh Cairns, a young cyclist who died in 2009 after being hit by a truck. The end of this play leaves us with an image of hundreds of ghosts and humans protesting road safety outside the TFL headquarters in North Greenwich, with the message that victims like Eilidh Cairns are seen, they matter, and their stories will help change the future for everyone.
Photo: Tommy Cha
The White Bike is at the Space from 19th until 30th September 2017. For further information or to book visit here.