Prairie Theatre Exchange has the perfect complement to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of women winning the right to vote with a story based on a revolution of a different kind – the revolution of the two wheels of a bicycle.
Spin, written and performed by evalyn parry (yes, she keeps it all lowercase), is a grand ode to the bicycle, a performance love-letter to the simple machine that granted many degrees of freedom to women when the amount of rights they actually had was sorely lacking. Through a collection of songs and stories, parry investigates the different ways how bikes allowed women to take ownership of their right to travel where and when they needed.
Helping her do this are Kathleen Kajioka on violin, Angela Rudden on viola, and Kevin Fox on cello. Most inventively however is Brad Hart “on the bicycle” – as in he uses the bicycle as a percussion instrument, tapping it with drum sticks, flicking its bells, spinning its wheels and playing with its safety lights (which provides a warm humming sound) turning the contraption into a kit that would rival Neil Peart from Rush.
evalyn parry (photo by Haanita Seval)
But this Canadian collective of musicians sounds a lot less like Rush, and a lot more like Broken Social Scene, with dynamically building melodies that race along, trying in vain to keep up with parry’s wild and imaginative lyrics that deconstruct the bicycle in a way you couldn’t do if you had a ratchet and screwdriver handy. It’s one half folk rock, the other half slam poet with lines like “Would you ship your bicycle across the sea? What would you do to feel free? What would you do to prove what a woman can be?”
A recurring refrain that pops up in Spin’s stories is the tale of Annie Londonderry, who, in 1894, takes a wager that she can cycle around the world to earn $10,000. So she packs a change of underwear and a pearl-handled revolver and sets off. On her journey she becomes a latter-day NASCAR driver by adorning her body with sponsors and ad space that turns her into a walking, er- riding billboard (even her name, Londonderry, is actually the name of a water bottling company- her real name is Kopchovsky!). Along the way, she tells people of her adventurers around the world, for a little coin of course, to make some money and keep the journey going.
Her courage, entrepreneurship, and independence inspire much of parry’s lyrics, making up the bulk of Spin, and the story even gets a bit of an update for the 21st century on the ripple effect of her journey.
This is a play that celebrates women and their agency to take control of their destiny, and with the timing of Manitoba women getting the vote 100 years ago, couldn’t be a more appropriate way to acknowledge this milestone.