Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Thomas Hobbins takes a ride... I leave Nethy Bridge...

Thomas Hobbins made my legs ache just by watching his Land's End. Admittedly, he spends most of the performance cycling - bringing back memories of the route between Nethy Bridge and Aviemore - pausing only in recollection of idyllic childhood adventures. But the energy he brings to the story, and his natural charisma, makes the mix and match of Lord of the Rings and a spontaneous attempt to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats ('is he a giant?' ponders Hobbins) both charming and resonant.

The simple set - a signpost and a bike fixed on a stand - is evocative of Hobbins' themes: the sense of freedom and excitement, and the loneliness and exhaustion, that come with an open road. Unlike my trip from Nethy Bridge, Hobbins' journey was spontaneous and accompanied. While I spent much of the time staring out at the surrounding countryside, before arriving in an Aviemore that feels more like a seaside resort than a lonely outpost in the Highlands, Hobbins was in earnest conversation with his travelling companion (the Sam to his Frodo, in the extended comparisons to the hobbits quest to Mordor).

Hobbins highlights his own impulsive enthusiasm - the story begins with a flashback to childhood, when LotR inspired him to cycle off to the local power station, with only a bottle of fizz and a packet of Monster Munch for rations - and the tensions of travelling long distances with a close friend. His honesty about his lack of preparation, and the conflicts between the duo, is disarming. His rendition of Blackberry Way - a song that bears resemblance to The Beatles' Penny Lane but of a darker bent - captures both the hopelessness of the long distance journey and the vague sense of togetherness that it encourages.

The constant cycling - Hobbins makes his hour long monologue into an act of endurance by whizzing the wheels around as he talks - provides a humming soundtrack to the episodic dramas. When the lights dim - the dynamic duo get lost at night - the buzz of the wheels is sinister. When he scoots into John O'Groats, it becomes triumphant. Yet all the way through the bike does not move - a startling symbol of the ambiguity of travel: however far we go, somethings never change...

It is as if Hobbins is in flight from himself, but unable to escape...

The train that went past me, an old vintage steam engine, faster than my cycle over uneven ground....

No comments :

Post a comment