The White Bike by Tamara von Werthern has its first run at The Space on the Isle of Dogs. The action is firmly set in East London and the location seems fitting. The play is inspired by the death of Eilidh Cairns, a young female cyclist killed by a lorry in 2009 and the first to have a white bike erected in her memory. Von Werthern spent time with Eilidh’s sister, a campaigner for cycle safety, and had access to the court transcript of the inquest in a bid to make the play as accurate as possible and show just one of the human stories behind the accident statistics.
The White Bike tells the story of Isabelle, a young mother returning to work after maternity leave. She kisses her husband and daughter good bye, leaves the house to cycle to work and never comes home. We follow Isabelle on her journey, hear her thoughts and share her memories sparked by the sights she passes on her cycle route. The challenge of presenting cycling on stage is here met with physicality and bike parts that seem to float across the stage in the hands of the supporting cast. We follow Isabelle after her death as she comes to realise what has happened and the impact on those left behind in a world she is no longer part of.
Isabelle, played by Josephine Starte, is certainly the star of this show; she and Christopher Akrill as husband Henry are the only performers to play just one role. The remaining parts are played by Helen Millar, Helen Stern and Liam Faik. The cast are all on the stage for most of the performance but they do not distract from Starte as she takes us on what we know to be her last journey.
The tension of knowing this young woman is soon to die horribly makes this play tough to watch but strong performances and the relevance of the topic make it an important show to watch and share.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Tommy Cha