Romola "period dramas" Garai seems to be trying to dirty up her image a bit lately, what with washing her mimsy in a bowl in The Crimson Petal and the White
and now starring in Penelope Skinner's new tragicomedy at the Royal Court, The Village Bike
. And just in case anyone missed the title's innuendo, the poster image is downright filthy
Garai plays English teacher Becky, pregnant but not yet showing, and feeling constantly horny. But her husband John (Nicholas Burns) has turned paranoid and overprotective of the baby and has lost interest in her sexually. Thinking her husband now sees her just as a baby factory Becky starts watching his porn collection and soon finds everything reminding her of sex - in one particularly funny scene every porn cliché in the book gets thrown at her when a plumber (Phil Cornwell) comes round to sort out her pipes just as Oliver (Dominic Rowan) arrives to sell her a used bike, straight from an amateur dramatics rehearsal and dressed like a highwayman. Rowan is successfully cast against type as a slightly creepy ladies-man, and Becky and Oliver soon embark on an affair built around living out her erotic, increasingly violent fantasies.
A return to form for Skinner, The Village Bike
typifies what the Royal Court's been doing well lately, a dark undercurrent to a play that still manages to be entertaining and very funny. Alexandra Gilbreath provides a lot of this humour with a great performance as Jenny, Becky's neighbour and (false) prophet of How Everything Will Be Fine When The Baby Arrives. Joe Hill-Gibbins' production is pacey, including some weirdly frantic scene changes, and James Farncombe's lighting brings out the best in this attic space with some atmospheric colours. The show had sold out but they've just added an extra week's run so some more tickets should be available.The Village Bike
by Penelope Skinner is booking until the 6th of August at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.