Swept off my feet by a lady and an iron horse

May 25, The Metro, Uno Festival, Victoria
Written and performed by Evalyn Parry

Reviewed by Leah Callen

SPIN is a fun trip through time and metaphor on a three-speed steed steered by the talented Evalyn Parry with Brad Hart as back-up. I can honestly say this was the first time I’d ever heard someone play a bicycle like a musical instrument. That alone is worth hearing. The play uses song, spoken word, and monologue in an ode to cycling and ingenuity. As we ride through the scenic past, we are reminded how important it is to keep on trailblazing.

Though I am not a bike lover (yet), I enjoyed the obscure stories of these biker women; SPIN really spoke to me. Annie Londonderry teaches us a lesson in guts: the first woman to cycle around the world taking only her courage, a pearl-handled revolver, and a change of underwear with her. She left her children and husband behind–all thanks to an alleged bet. And a song about Amelia Bloomer, an early pro-pants activist, encourages us to fight for our political legs.

Parry’s wordplay is both bright and dark; the word spin means progress and propaganda, freedom and commercialism. She shows us the front and back wheel of every story, the good and bad with ironic bitter sweetness. Parry keeps it real. Steampunky costuming was a spunky sidekick to her monologues. She stepped visually in and out of characters, helping us travel a few miles in other women’s pants. Film also added visual poetry and joie de vivre to the staging.

Overall, it was fascinating watching Brad Hart bowing spokes and thumping away on a bicycle seat as if it was the most natural drum kit in the world. Many of the duets featured Parry taking the low vocal roads while Hart took the higher harmony. Even the music had an unexpected, feminist twist. The rhyme and repetition of the poetry evoked the circular motion of a bike brilliantly. I was happy to tag along on this joyride in the audience.

There is humour and honesty here. As Parry says, the heart is the motor. SPIN moves through the outer spokes to the hub as her performance travels from the historical to the personal–and what you get is inspirational. Though the old adage saying, “It’s not the destination but the journey that counts,” is a touch clichéd, this was a heart-opening performance which reflects back on the past with fresh eyes, and compels us to carry forward with bravery. Parry asks us: why settle for friction when you can choose momentum? This show is about the female quest for autonomy, but it’s also about the magical freedom we all experience when we take off life’s training wheels and fly down unknown avenues under our own steam.

Uno Fest runs until June 1st. Full calendar available on their website.

Leah Callen is a budding poet-playwright-screenwriter at the University of Victoria.