March 2020. A world plunged into self-isolation; where society has been forced to quarantine in order to remain safe from a deadly new infection–COVID-19. This is exactly where On Track, a 60 minute co-production from RedCape Theatre and South Street Arts opens; following a resourceful single-mother, Kit who’s used to thriving in a fast-paced world. When lockdown strikes; her world seemingly shrinks with constant childcare, homeschooling and Zoom meetings becoming a new normal. Stressed and overwhelmed; with the walls closing in around her, she turns to a relic of her past, an old bicycle sitting in her garage, with these two wheels setting her on track for a journey of self-discovery and escapism as the audience is treated with a historical backstory into women’s cycling.
Taking the helm in a one-woman production is no easy feat, with Pip Hambly playing the role of Kit, a quick-witted mother who’s struggling to fit everything into her daily schedule, despite the days seemingly dragging on as she’s confined to her own four walls with her young daughters.
The way Hambly presents this character creates the illusion that it’s based on her own experiences; however On Track was actually written by Catherine Dyson, from an original idea from Cassie Friend; with the team expanding with Rebecca Loukes and Sabrina Netherclift as collective directors alongside Friend, these creative brains behind the production are able to collaborate to form a brilliantly funny theatrical piece. The play truly harnesses the inner thoughts and feelings of the pandemic; pairing these through a sense of belonging with the history of women’s biking.
Within her director’s note, Friend comments that “Over the last few years, riding a bike has helped me hugely, never more so during lockdown. Like Kit, the next few months I discovered a world of rebellious women riding bikes at night, disguised as men and in defiance of the medical ‘advice’ of the day”, with this historical rebellion becoming a driving force for Kit; seeking the refuge of reality in her garage where a long forgotten static bicycle provides her with an overwhelming sense of hope. Throughout the history of women’s cycling; it’s become a controversial topic for aeons, with the Tour De France to this day not even accepting women to participate; deeming it too difficult for them.
As Kit is opened up to the freedom and self-reliance of these women, she gets back on her own two wheels, rejoicing and rooting for female rebellion groups such as the Tour De Femmes; making International Women’s Month a perfectly apt time for this production to be showcased, with this play having strong moral themes of female empowerment and finding your tribe.
Hambly is able to bring comedic relief in scenes of otherwise global panic; inspiring her girls to dance along to her avid following of Joe Wicks’ PE lessons whilst dressed as a minion, even forgetting to mute herself on Zoom before spouting remarks about her co-workers. These are all moments we as an audience are able to find connection with and thus through the combination of acting and writing skills from the crew; On Track is a production you’re bound to enjoy whether a dedicated cyclist or not.
Set design from Martin West truly supports the narrative storytelling of the production to engage an audience; using two pairs of shoes as figurative objects to portray Kit’s daughters who she holds so dear to her as a single parent; with Hambly moving these in such a way that it created the illusion of the girls interacting with their mother. Despite these shoes being mundane in day to day life, through the interaction and communication of the play; West is able to create the presence of individuals with such significant meaning.
In scenes where Kit is in complete solitude with her bicycle; these are highly supported by the accompanying lighting design; where spotlights alongside lighting provided purely by the bike headlights, allow for moments of intimacy where you’re truly transported into her world. Once a place of darkness; the garage and bike become a place full of light and acceptance as she openly shares her adoration for this method of transportation to the audience.
Overall, On Track is a production that allows women to break the barriers set by historical-norms. It stands for support in female empowerment; supported by a team of female creatives who’ve managed to create a story that reduces the requirement for any other actors on stage. The narrative of Kit is one that becomes personal to the audience members of The Drum; with everyone finding resonance in her story; whether you’re a frequent cyclist or have never attempted to ride on two wheels. Through strong moral themes of family and inclusion; this was truly a play that plentiful audience members seemed to find a sense of belonging for themselves within.