On Your Bike comes with a lot of hype. The friendly staff at theSpace assured me that audiences had been coming out smiling, and a fellow reviewer took one look at my musical-loving optimism and predicted five-stars. Perhaps this reputation is because On Your Bike is the new venture from Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society, the same folks we have to thank for West End smash Six, which also began life at the Fringe.
What more could you want?
A far cry from Henry VIII’s wives, On Your Bike follows takeaway delivery drivers as they navigate life and love from the doorstep of a chicken shop. But make no mistake, the risks they face are just as real, even if zero-hour contracts offer little chance of reward. The opening number paints a bleak picture of their prospects which doesn’t quite gel with its toe-tapping tune, and on from there the social commentary is often scathing.
Don’t be perturbed by this serious underbelly. Writer and lyricist Joe Venable is certainly determined to send you home happy, and the cast have enough charm and chemistry to open a potions' shop (slightly random analogy, but the point stands). They skip and sing their way through the songs with skill and feeling. There are a few imperfect moments of spinning in different directions or slight timing discrepancies, but nothing that even comes close to interrupting the swell of story and soul which sweeps the audience along. You laugh at the characters’ jokes, you glow with their burgeoning romances, and you ache for their misfortunes. What more could you want?
Actually, to be honest, I wanted a lot more. Short and sweet is definitely applicable. Unlike a large number of Fringe shows which would benefit from a brutal bit of cutting, On Your Bike is screaming for some more breathing room in which to develop its characters and ideas a little further. Then again, perhaps I was just sad to leave the company of characters I’d come to like so much, which can only be a mark in its favour.