Written by: Helen Moulder and Sue Rider
Directed by: Sue Rider
Circa Theatre, 25th Oct 2023
Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus
Helen Moulder has been thrilling audiences at Circa Theatre since the late 1970s and The Bicycle and The Butcher’s Daughter is another solid entry in her canon. It’s a lovely story of familial relationships in a changing world seen through the eyes of five members of a famous clan of butchers who sell their products under the cheesy tagline, “On your feet with Patterson’s Meat!”
In this one-woman show, Moulder plays everyone – businesswoman Olivia, patriarch Sir Harold, arty Jennifer, vegan comedian Lexi, and 11-year-old Grace – alongside a mysteriously mangled bicycle. This simple device cleverly mirrors the unfolding tale of the Pattersons and the fake news scandal that threatens to derail their burgeoning product deal with investors in China.
Each character is exactly drawn and, even without the basic costume changes that slow the pace somewhat, they are clearly rendered through Moulder’s acting skill. Olivia is slick, bossy, and constantly on the phone, wheeling and dealing. 94-year-old Sir Harold potters in his garden while ranting about change and drifts randomly back to “pūkeko pies” in comic outbursts. Lexi’s stand-up comedy routine, starting with a half-consumed banana folded carefully in a beeswax wrap, is sweary, angry, and genuinely funny. Estranged sister Jennifer is artily flaky as she struggles with unfunctional plumbing while trying to open her new gallery on Featherston Street. Finally, 11-year-old Gracie completes the narrative circle and we discover why bicycles are so important in the Pattersons’ family history.
Delivered on a typically sparse Circa Two set, this is an intimate production that mostly uses direct address to engage the audience. Sue Rider’s choice to use scene and costume changes is enhanced through the addition of lively Beethoven sonatas recorded by Juliet Ayre and Richard Mapp and straightforward lighting (design by Giles Burton) that keep the changes interesting.
For 75 minutes of delightful entertainment, you can’t go far wrong with The Bicycle and the Butcher’s Daughter.