Motion is written, performed and ‘sprouted from the minds of’ Sally Reichardt and Rosie Frecker. It is a delightful play about the ambition of a cyclist and the people who motivate her to become a professional athlete. While the structure might seem similar to most conventional sports movies, the play successfully conveys her attitude and her passion towards her sport. The main character, Melissa, is instantly likeable and charismatic, and Reichardt’s performance carries the narrative through what could have been a dull ride. And it’s a good thing that the writing is as good as it is, because her narration is what guides the audience through much of the story. There is a minimal use of set and scene in this play, the set consisting only of a bicycle, a table and a washing line. The scenes feel less like complete pieces but more a collection of abstract thoughts and memories exuding from the narrator’s head.
The story takes the audience on a journey through Melissa’s early childhood competitions with her sister to the final stages of her professional career. The narrative is smooth and effortless for the two performers with the storyline feeling at once realistic and engaging.
The performances are just as captivating. Reichardt’s central performance is bubbly and energetic, Melissa never loses the childlike enthusiasm that she starts with. Reichardt approaches the role with an energy that never lets up. Her movements and deft actions force us to believe she has stepped onto a bike almost every day of her life.
Rosie Frecker, who not only directs but, in her own words, plays ‘everyone else’, is as engaging a stage presence as Reichardt. Her main roles include Melissa’s sister and trainer, and though her characters are slightly less well rounded as they are granted considerably less stage time, through anecdotes in Melissa’s narration they become fully fleshed out. This creates a nuanced backstory and depth to these otherwise fleeting characters.
One criticism I would offer is that stylistically, the play often jumps from poetic breakdowns full of rhyming couplets to low energy dance sequences. While the couplets absolutely work with the playful tone of the rest of the piece, the dancing seems a little out of place. Indeed, the way the play opens (with Melissa preset onstage with her head in her arms while disquieting electronic music plays over the sound system) seems completely opposed to the atmosphere and spirit of the piece.
Overall, while this play doesn’t challenge anybody’s preconceptions it does a wonderful job of exploring an idea thoroughly.
Motion is playing Matthew’s Yard until September 25.