I'm a journalism and creative writing graduate living in Melbourne. Visit my blog at disillusioner.com
Stand-up: a fitness instructor spills his personal problems
Your spin class instructor, Sam Anderson
Warning: this review contains minor spoilers
Bi-cycle consists of fifty minutes of high-energy, character-based stand-up that jokingly explores the themes of health obsession and bisexuality.
Solo performer Sam Anderson plays a spin class instructor; you, the audience, are his class. The instructor can't keep his personal life to himself, he frequently stops instructing and starts spilling his personal problems, before regaining control - this pattern makes up the show.
The main theme is the difficulty of figuring out one's sexuality and the lack of understanding that one faces when doing so. The instructor is uncertain whether he is straight or gay, which isn't helped by the pressure and misunderstanding others pile onto him. These others are played by Sam himself. For example, the instructor's father (played by Sam) goes on long drives and struggles to conceal his rage, and a manipulative psychologist (played by Sam) tries to convince him he is not actually homosexual but merely seeking attention.
Sam manages to explore this theme in a way that isn't gloomy but is instead entertaining. He achieves this through exaggerated characters, channelling his themes through spoken storytelling, and by providing comic relief. The funniest parts are the food/fitness obsession such as with low fat and high protein diet ("he ordered the Arancini balls – I tried to stop him"), sexual jokes, and mock-motivational metaphors comparing spin classes to life. The corny metaphors stereotype motivational figures, but they manage to not be meaningless.
Sam's movements on the stage are a standout. He is usually pedalling on an imaginary bike; when he dismounts, he kicks his leg in the air. He uses motion to change between characters, to change the mood and to suggest action. For example, he acts out the instructor's head being shoved into the wall, abstractly conveys a sexual encounter and expresses distress with gardening motions.
The only audience participation comes early on when Sam leaves the stage and asks a few multiple-choice questions to members of the crowd. He does not rely on the audience for content so there is no need to feel intimidated.
Bi-Cycle is definitely worth checking out. It is playing at The Butterfly Club, a quirky well-decorated venue in the CBD, every night until Saturday, August 11. The theme is niche; if it has relevance to your own life, perfect; if it doesn't, still attend because of the high-energy, the laughs and the quality of the acting. My mind did not wander once.