Bike Ride: Theatre SKAM's wheely big show – By John Threlfall

Back after a disappointing downpour last year, Theatre SKAM’s 2013 model Bike Ride truly is bigger and better. More shows, different venues and jam packed with local talent, Bike Ride has absolutely become one of Victoria’s must-do summer festivals.

Family-friendly—but not necessarily family-focussed—Bike Ride is the perfect afternoon out. With 16 shows spread out along the Galloping Goose (from Selkirk Station on the south side to Ardersier Road on the north, with a lovely spur into Vic West), you don’t have to be worthy of the Tour de France to enjoy Bike Ride. While bicycles are, of course, the preferred mode of travel, my eight-year-old boy saw six shows on his Razor scooter and did just fine. Better still, kids under 12 are free.

The concept is simple: arrive at the hub at Cecilia Ravine Park and get assigned to a three-show tour. Ride out along the Goose with your group until you reach the plainly numbered show you’re heading for. (The numbers are really, really big.) Park your bike, plunk yourself down on the grass and enjoy the approximately 10-minute show, then roll off to the next one you’ve been assigned. After three shows, return to the hub and head out on a different series. See? Simple

The shows themselves range from musicals and comedies to dance, physical theatre, spoken-word performance poetry and one that’s like Wild Kingdom for dinosaurs. It’s an intentionally wide range, guaranteeing that you’ll see a bit of everything on your ride out. Some involve bikes and the great outdoors, others do not. But, the best of the 10 shows I saw this year were the ones that made either bikes or the natural setting an integral part of the production; less successful, obviously, were the shows that felt like they could have been performed anywhere, anytime.

Of the batch I saw, top marks go out to venues 7, 8, 9—also a simply beautiful stretch of the Vic West Gorge. Gotta Getta Gimmick’s “Harvey and Antonia Bug Out” (7) is simply silly pre-post-apocalyptic fun, while Launch Pad’s “Chain Drive” (8) is hands-down the best Bike Ride show I’ve ever seen. A hilarious twist on a cycling punk-rock band, “Chain Drive” gets it in top gear by even playing bicycle-based instruments. But then “Postscript” by The Noisy Neighbours (9) offers a piece of silent mail-based physical theatre that is as clever as it is charming; reminiscent of the great French film Amelie, “Postscript” is worth the extra ride.

Also worth noting is the homemade pedicab-based “Tour” by Universal Unlimited. This is a sneaky one, way up at the top of the stairs above the hub and only open to four people at a time—but, it’s worth tracking down. For 20 minutes, you’re taken on a short tour ostensibly recounting the history of the Burnside neighbourhood, but this smart and touching tale uses the environment and some interactive props to add layers to the story; it’s the most revealing pedicab ride you’ll ever take.

So, don’t miss Bike Ride but here are some closing tips.
• Don’t try to see everything in one day. I was there from 3:30 to 6pm and saw 10 shows; pick up a two-day pass if you want to catch it all.

• Ride carefully. Not everyone is on the Goose to see shows, and not everyone slows down. And watch the gravel—my kids did fine, but my wife slid out and ended up with eight stitches in her elbow. And wear your helmet. (But yes, there is first-aid station at the hub.)

• Don’t horn in on shows on the go. Trust the hub marshals to get you where you need to be.

• Put on sunscreen. Bug spray is also not a bad idea, especially along the Vic West spur.

• Don’t have a bike? Rent one at the hub, which also offers yummy refreshments, tickets and snazzy merch (some of which is designed by the kids of SKAM’s earlier Fashion Machine).

• Always return to the hub at Cecilia Ravine Park. Not only is there great music there courtesy of Crow-Matic Theatre, but you can also enjoy the giant puppets Olio and Opus courtesy of Théâtre de Marionnettes Géantes.

• Enjoy yourself!

Bike Ride
3:30-6:30pm July 13 & 14
Cecilia Ravine Park on the Galloping Goose (475 Burnside Road East)
Tickets $20 on site, $15 advance through Ticket Rocket / $25 two-day pass

John Threlfall