Bicycles & Feminism

Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

On a bright and misty Vancouver evening, The Cultch was packed for the opening night of Toronto’s Outspoke Productions – Spin by Evalyn Parry. The stage was set simply with two guitars, a rack of hats, and microphone and mixing board, and a tripod mounted vintage bicycle. A small screen at the back of the stage features the following quotes:

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
-H.G. Wells

The Bicycle is on the way to transforming out way of life more deeply than you may think.
All these girls and women who are devouring space are refusing domestic family life.
-Sarah Bernhardt

When I write a review I don’t like to read other people’s reviews or synopsis of the show. I like to go in with fresh eyes and no outside influences. Therefore, my brief impression of Spin pre-show was that it was about bicycles and feminism- two of my favourite things! Post show, without any spoilers for you, dear reader; I would say Spin is a combination of spoken word poetry and music, with a strong story telling element.

Yes, it is about bicycles. And I learned many funny and interesting things about them (some amusing names of bicycles of the past: Penny Farthing, Bone Shaker and Dandy Horse.) It is also about feminism (some intriguing feminists who loved bicycles: Francis Willard and Annie Londonderry.) More than that it is about Parry’s personal experience as a lover of bicycles and the stories and metaphors that come from all things bike related.

Spin features two performers. Evalyn Parry narrates, sings and plays guitar. Parry has a warm and expressive voice. Her opening song “Two wheeled words, to wield words” was an excellent example of the type of clever layering of phrases and meanings found throughout the performance. Brad Hart accompanies Parry, singing and creating percussion on a vintage bicycle. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Hart construct and subtly layer each song with peddle looping. The artists had comfortable chemistry and timing with each other. They gave the impression of being well practiced together. Keep your eyes and ears open for my favourite song about Amelia Bloomer and fashion reform “Your Political Legs”.

If I had one small criticism for Spin it would simply be that it appears that Parry’s show is constantly evolving, for which I applaud her as an artist. However, the pace of the show hit a couple slow spots and I felt that the story wasn’t as congruent as I wanted it to be. Having said that, Parry’s work was earnest and heartfelt.

FYI: There was no ’strong language’ nudity or sexuality in this performance- so it’s appropriate for all ages. I suggest taking your Mom! Run time is eighty minutes with no intermission- so get your baileys on ice in before the show. Cheers! Spin is playing at The Cultch from April 9th to 20th with primarily evening shows and a matinee on the final day.