Ride it equal parts charming, inspiring, and heartbreaking – a perfect reflection of Annie Londonderry’s story.

Credit: Danny Kaan

Ride is a new musical written by Freya Catrin Smith and Jack Williams, and directed by Sarah Meadows. It tells the story of Annie Londonderry, the first female cyclist to cycle around the globe, which she managed to do back in 1894. Her journey began across North America and after some setbacks, continued via Europe, Asia and back to America for the final stretch. With a small cast of two, Liv Andrusier plays Annie and Katy Ellis plays Martha, Annie’s secretary. The two of them also play multiple other characters to tell the dynamic story of Annie’s adventures. 

Smith and Williams’ songs are rich and lively, delivered with nuance and energy by both Andrusier and Ellis, through the ups and downs of the show. Meadows’ direction is full of subtle undertones and details that make the characters (and the relationship between them) blossom as they act their way through the various situations Annie faced during her journey. It would be criminal not to mention Amy Jane Cook’s set and costume design; the set is so abundant in details, beautifully designed and crafted, in a way that it feels like every aspect of it is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional at some point in the show. 

As far as storytelling goes, when Ride begins, it feels a little bit confusing. As the audience, I wasn’t quite sure how I was meant to react to what the characters were throwing at me. Within moments, however, it becomes clear that the audience is initially playing the part of the (confused) gentlemen that Annie is presenting herself to. As soon as Annie launches into the opening song (performed by Andrusier with impeccable vocals and attitude), however, it’s impossible not to be pulled right into the narrative. As she, with Martha’s help, tells her tale you can’t help but wonder how much of her fantastical story is reality or fiction. But, as the show asks, what is reality anyway? 

Between the fast-paced story, carefully curated tone, incredible acting and a soundtrack I’ll be listening to on repeat for weeks to come, I really can’t think of ways in which this show could get better. It has quickly secured a very high spot on my list of favourite new shows.

Credit: Danny Kaan

What I enjoyed the most about it, however, is how multi-dimensional both characters are. It is refreshing to see women being represented in a way that conveys just how layered and complex we are and in such contrasting ways. Not making excuses for Annie’s perhaps questionable behaviour, and challenging Martha’s self-imposed limitations, both approaching what it means to be a woman (and an immigrant, mother, potentially queer?) in the late 1800s in very distinctive ways that still feel very much relevant in today’s world. 

Ride is playing at Southwark Playhouse – Elephant until 12 August and I strongly suggest you rush over there and get yourself a ticket as soon as possible so you can forever brag you saw this show before it transferred to the West End, as it’s only a matter of time before it rides it’s way across the river (sorry I needed at least one awful riding pun in there).

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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