Program notes for My bicycle loves you, the 2011 Sydney Festival production from Legs on the Wall, promote the show as a day in the life of seven characters inhabiting the same apartment building. They also explain that the show features archival footage sourced from the National Film and Sound Archive, rare footage dating to the early twentieth century as used by the Corrick family of vaudeville entertainers.
The footage is fascinating and is a mix of travelogue, chase, and fantasy scenes, with some trick photography and early use of tinted film. It has been beautifully manipulated for the show by video artist Mic Gruchy. Whether projected onto screens—sometimes large, sometimes small—used as shadow play, or mixed with contemporary footage of the artists of Legs on the Wall, it rarely loses its fascination.
But as on so many occasions when footage or projections of some kind are used as an integral part of a theatre performance, especially one where movement is the central mode of expression, the movement becomes a secondary partner. Without an exceptional collaborative aesthetic at work, the visual imagery always dominates. And this is what happened in My bicycle loves you. It was only when the very skilful artists of Legs on the Wall were performing against a static backdrop (which was not often) did they command the attention they deserve.
The eclectic movement style of Legs on the Wall, dubbed ‘physical theatre’, often appears to me to lack focus at the best of times. The mind tends to wander and wonder whether the mixture of circus acrobatics, street dance, stunts and other varieties of dancing and movement, is able to convey a narrative, even a surreal or episodic one. It is worse when something else takes the attention away from the physicality on display. Bouquets, however, to the four musicians in the pit, especially for their five minute or so jam at the end of the show.
Michelle Potter, 19 January 2011