Pedal Pusher is a journey inside riders’ heads
Physical theatre show takes on the Tour de France
This article is from 2010.
This very, very physical theatre show does justice to the toughest sporting event in the world, the Tour de France, with a muscular production that’s quite exhausting, in a good way, to watch. It tells the story of the decade-long battle between top cyclists American Lance Armstrong, Italian Marco Pantani and German Jan Ulrich. The action takes place from the early 1990s on into the new millennium, when the Tour suffered a crisis over a series of ‘doping’ scandals that saw many riders barred from the competition for taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
The play opens with the death of Pantani and thereafter cuts forwards and backwards in time to key scenes involving the star riders, plus other competitors and commentators, detailing the participants’ personal motivations as well as the de-motivating effect the doping scandal had on them. Armstrong’s astonishing comeback from testicular cancer to win the Tour not once but twice, is, of course, well known, while Pantani’s story, being lauded as Italy’s great hope and his subsequent disillusionment with the event, is less familiar. But because Pantani’s trajectory is the tragic antithesis of Armstrong’s experience it is, if anything, more dramatic.
The cast of four fit players do a great job of leaping between characters and nationalities (accents all fine), and the way in which they dramatise, with minimal props and some impressive contortions, various stages of the various Tours is nothing short of ingenious. And splitting the narrative commentary among the characters, so that you get, for example, Ulrich commenting on why Armstrong should not have given a stage away to Pantani, is a stroke of genius. It’s a strategy that takes you right inside the riders’ heads. And that, really, is what Pedal Pusher is all about. You don’t have to be a Tour fan to appreciate that.
Zoo Roxy, 662 6892, until 30 Aug (not 15, 22), 4pm, £12 (£10)