Spin Cycles

Jamie-Lee Money
Pleasance Courtyard

Spin Cycles

Exercise might well be good for you, but if you’re cycling on the spot and not getting anywhere, there’s probably a lesson in there. For the cynical reviewer character in Spin Cycles, dually exercising and exorcising with every push at the pedal is both a job and a life choice.

It’s a curiously unique spectacle. Jamie-Lee Money, bedecked in pink lycra, starts the play already cycling on an exercise bike, something her character is already used to but is tasked with covering in her journalistic capacity as a piece on using a spin class to cope with grief.

Through her tormented perseverance, we learn about her life, her work and the difficult balance of spinning all the plates in her life while hiding the various pains and stresses of her past and present from her colleagues as well as herself.

There are some problems with the play. The venue’s vaulted ceilings give the piece a strange acoustic resonance, which makes the music and overlaid voices a concussive quality that isn’t much fun. Similarly, there’s a breadth of place and product name-dropping that assumes rather a lot of knowledge, be that brands of shoes, air fryers or actors in recent TV shows.

Similarly, the script has that slightly cringy and presumptive London-centric vibe that is inherent to those who rarely brave to step beyond the safety of the M25. All of which is fine when depicting this sort of character, but for an audience that isn’t intimately aware of The Barbican, or which side of London Soho is on, it’s more a barrier than a welcome, especially when the play spends much time on this sort of thing, only to drop other, more pertinent aspects in only briefly, lessening their emotional weight.

There is also a surfeit of ideas at play in this piece. The exercise industry itself, dealing with grief, manifestations of OCD, meaningless relationships, cancer scares, dysmorphic panics and chemical dependencies all briefly touched on, but it’s a cluttered effect rather than a compounding one and a less is more approach might have made for a better and more resonant experience.

None of which is an indictment of the work being put on by Money, who ought to get an award for sheer physical endurance, grinding away at the bike for much of the runtime and dancing, walking or strutting during her scenes on her feet. It’s a gauntlet of a performance, eliciting laughs often, as well as drawing in empathy easily as the cynical mask of the jaded critic gradually begins to fall.

This is Money’s debut play, and it’s fair to say that it’s a significant achievement, managing to coax so much genuine empathy into a chaotic and sardonic parable for the modern woman is a truly great first step upon the stage.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan

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