Tab Tries: Riding a Bike

Theatre Editor WILL KENNAWAY gives cycling a go for the third time in his life.

4000 Miles bikes Corpus Playroom cycling Will Kennaway

I’ve never properly ridden a bike.  After some traumatic experiences involving stabilisers and hills at an early age, the only other time I’d given it a go was a questionable and brief Freshers’ Week ramble in my college’s gardens.  This is taboo in Cambridge.  When I have been unwise enough to mention my cycling incompetency in the past, whole conversations have stopped, jaws have dropped, and pitying looks have been given.  It’s almost as if I’ve said that I’m terminally ill.

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Gabriel and Julia: good to go

Well—on this day I decided that enough was enough.  The plan was simple: meeting with Gabriel Cagan and Julia Kass (leads in upcoming Heywood Society production 4,000 Miles, in which the protagonist is trying to go on a lengthy bike trip of his own) outside the Corpus Playroom, we would embark on an extensive tour of Cambridge, epic in scale, dizzying in its ambition.  We would go to Sainsburys; we would go to John’s; we would go to Girton.  The stage was set for just the kind of adventure about which Tab features are written.

Predictably, we gave up after 5 minutes.  Cycling, it turns out, is really hard. It’s easy enough to cycle quickly in an empty bit of Peterhouse’s gardens, but cycling in towns is a completely different ball-game: there are other bikes, there are bollards, there are office workers on their lunch breaks.  Breaking is a necessity, as is the occasional turn.  I was quickly disabused of my assumption that much like with, say, mixed martial arts, or flying a fighter jet, I was almost certainly going to be amazing at cycling despite never really having tried it.

Awkwardly leaning against our bicycles just outside the Guildhall, we decided to make the best of it by having a chat about cycling, fruit juice, and the play they were hoping to plug.

We need to pretend we’re still on our bikes.

Gabriel: Maybe just write down every third word. Pretend the microphone couldn’t pick them up because of the cycling noises.

Good idea. What are your best cycling anecdotes? 

Gabriel: I travelled 12 miles once. Not quite 4,000.  Decent.

When did you learn to ride?

Julia: My brother could ride before me. I learnt to ride out of jealousy.

Gabriel: I had the classic Hollywood learning experience—I was shoved down a hill by my father’s own hand.

Touching. How much cycling is there in this play, then? 

Gabriel: …well, none, not in the play itself.  It’s set after a guy has done some cycling.

Julia: He stops at his grandma’s house.

Oh. If you were a fruit juice, what kind of fruit juice would you be? 

Gabriel:  Um… aloe vera.

Is that a juice? 

Gabriel:  Yes.

Julia:  Prune juice. Because my character is an elderly woman.

Right.  You play her.  How have you, a fresher, found portraying an old woman? 

Julia: It’s tough. I’ve started stalking old people. I will watch them talk and think to myself: that’s my character right there.

Gabriel: On the bus.

Julia: Yes. I’m at Homerton anyway so I catch the bus a lot, you see.

Right. Maybe this article should have been ‘Tab Tries: Buses’. 

Julia: A missed opportunity.

Gabriel: Wombats.


Gabriel: I’m trying to resurrect the ‘every third word’ joke.  It’ll throw people off.

4000 Miles runs from Tuesday until Saturday at the Corpus Playroom.  Student tickets are £5.