Charing Cross Theatre
Books, Music and Lyrics
Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams
It’s 1895 and Annie Londonderry has returned victorious to America, hailed as the first woman to ever cycle around the world and she’s pitching her story to the New York World. But she can’t do it alone. Joined at the eleventh hour by unwitting secretary Martha Smith, the two begin to share Annie’s unbelievable adventures. But before long, the cracks begin to show, and Annie is forced to confront a past she’d rather leave unexplored.
First published on Everything Theatre
The play begins as Annie (Liv Andrusier) speaks directly to the audience, who is taking on the role of the “gentlemen” interviewers of a newspaper to assess Annie’s suitability to write for them. It is clear that Annie is the one setting the pace of her pitch and showcases her need to control the situation. Struggling to complete the story as a one woman show, Annie recruits Martha (Yuki Sutton), a secretary working for the newspaper, to fill the role of other characters.
Annie’s tale brings a pertinent issue – even in today’s society – into the spotlight: people are more attracted to stories featuring a hero/heroine of their liking and unfortunately, those with certain traits are perceived as a better fit for these roles than others. Annie does not see her true self fitting with popular perception, and her confidence gradually diminishes during the course of her pitch. Despite the overwhelmingly positive image and the grand adventures that are presented, Annie openly admits that not all of her stories are true and she relishes that they are almost always a combination of fact and fiction.
Although an unwilling participant in Annie’s pitch, Martha remains, having becme enthralled by Annie’s enthusiasm and the possibilities for herself if she has the courage to take the first step. However, much like the audience, Martha begins to question the authenticity of Annie’s accounts. In a way, Martha is also a member of the audience, asking the questions we would like to ask on our behalf. Unlike Annie, Martha’s confidence grows as the story progresses, even continuing it by herself when Annie is stricken by grief and is unable to carry on, demonstrating the impact Annie’s story has on the people around her.
Andrusier and Sutton’s interactions are dynamic, always convincing and nothing less than delightful. A well-woven narrative lays the seeds of an underlying problem early into the story and explores what this means to Annie as she journeys across the world. The writers and director have a clear vision on how to keep the audience engaged, delivered most effectively through the change in Annie’s perception of her adventure as time goes on. Additionally, Ride features a stunning original score with marvellously written lyrics, laying a solid foundation for this musical to surely achieve future successes.
Andrusier must be greatly applauded for her performance, leading on the majority of the musical numbers and taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. She transitions seamlessly from hope and positivity to overwhelming sadness. There should be nothing but praise for her portrayal of Annie.
There are few, very minor, flaws to this production. For example, when the stage opens up to the bicycles and a blue sky, there is a huge amount of underutilised space at the back, obscured by the layout of the set pieces at the front. Perhaps the space could be opened up further to showcase the endless possibilities to this grand journey, as it feels a little confined at the moment.
Annie is an extremely well-developed character who must make choices in order to maximise her chances of success. Ride begins and finishes on a fairly positive note, whilst acknowledging that the truth is often not so simple. It was truly a privilege to embark on the ride of a lifetime with Annie, as she establishes herself as a “new woman” of her age.