Arriving in Hackney Wick and peering hopelessly at the street map by the station entrance I was approached by a group of arty looking youngsters: “Are you looking for Folly for a Flyover too?” they asked. Oh dear I thought, glancing at my watch nervously, how predictable. A make-shift arts venue had been lovingly constructed somewhere underneath the A12 flyover but we were all struggling to find it. No helpful signs, no suggestive trail of thespian-looking folk, no nothing. As far as I could see I had arrived in the middle of an abandoned industrial estate in the arse-end of Hackney. Was this part of the experience, I thought? Perhaps a bit of invisible theatre to get the evening going?
Eventually, after walking half a mile or more along a desolate towpath, we found it. And what a find! It was as if I had stumbled across a Wendy house for grown-ups: Hundreds of wooden bricks piled up to make a life-size house, to the left a performance space and raked seating, and inside a cosy bar lit by bulb lights, selling beers and bagels. How delightful, it was worth the effort! I must admit I was a little put out when I realised that what I had arrived to see was in fact a film showing of Toy Story 1. A great film obviously, but worth a lonely, hour long trip to Hackney on a Sunday evening? To my delight though a performance piece struck up, seemingly out of nowhere, entitled Bicycle Thieves. Consisting of a very ropey story line with even ropier acting, it featured some fantastic bike acrobatics, the likes of which I had never before seen live.
The performers spun their bikes around like dance partners, biking one-legged and manipulating their wheels, twisting and turning to the music. The audience cheered at the particularly impressive moves but when it came to the dialogue very little could actually be heard, as the actors struggled against the noise of the overhead traffic. However the aim of this event was clearly not theatre-making but rather to showcase the niche skills of these young people. And this should have been the sole focus of the evening in my opinion. Adding to the make-shift charm of this venue was the bike-run sound system, with three people peddling furiously in the corner to power the microphone power and music. A brave audience member even joined in with this, and a reciprocal and friendly relationship between audience and performers was immediately established. This was a fun and very different evening to whatever I was expecting, although I certainly could have watched more than the half-hour of bike talent that I got. This place is well worth a visit if ever you happen to find yourself in this rather isolated area of East London.
Folly for a Flyover is taking place until 31st July. For more information, see the website here.