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East London's Viewtube staging play of Italian classic Bicycle Thieves this coming week

Action shifts from post-war Rome to modern-day London and there's other cycling related art on offer too...

Arts and community centre The Viewtube, which overlooks the Olympic Park in East London, has unveiled a series of cycling-inspired events with the 2012 Games a little over a year away.

From tomorrow until next Wednesday, the venue will host performances of a new play, Bicycle Thieves, based on Luigi Bartolini’s novel Ladri di Biciclette, which itself inspired Vittorio Di Sica’s 1948 masterpiece of Italian neorealism cinema.

The action in the father-and-son tale of a man who retrieves his bike from a pawn shop so he can work, only to have it stolen, is transposed from post-war Rome to contemporary London, with the bike in this new interpretation being a BMX.

What’s more, the performances will be entirely pedal-powered, with members of the cast and the audience turning the cranks to generate electricity for the sound system.

The play is directed by Henriette Baker of Pip Productions and the original novel has been adapted by writer Kieran Lynn. Trick cyclist Paddy Waters is on board in the role of bicycle choreographer, with the performance featuring a BMX chorus.

Performances run from 1-6 July at 7pm and tickets cost £8 or £5 for concessions and can be bought here.

The staging of the play forms part of the Bicycle Wheel and Create festivals also being hosted by The Viewtube. There will also be a one-off performance on 17 July at Folly for a Flyover under the A12 at Hackney Wick.

Curated by Alice Sharp of Invisible Dust, Bicycle Wheel aims to stimulate environmental debate and get people cycling in East London, and is inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s 1913 readymade, itself called Bicycle Wheel, which proved to be a milestone in modern art.

Besides the performance of Bicycle Thieves, Bicycle wheel features three other cycling-related artistic initiatives.

Gavin Turk, propelled to fame as a member of the Young British Artists generation, has teamed up with industrial designer Ben Wilson to create 4H, which links four unicycles by means of an H-frame, which “highlights the need for more thoughtful, sustainable and pleasurable ways to travel.”

Able to be ridden by four cyclists at a time, it will be available for members of the public to try out this Saturday 2 July.

From 12-17 July, Berlin-based artists Köbberling/ Kaltwasser will be putting on a special performance of their work, Cars Into Bicycles.

Finally, local artist Colin Priest has produces a temporary artwork along the River Lea towpath comprising 100 bicycle bells that can be rung by passing cyclists and walkers.

Full details of these and other events can be found on The Viewtube website.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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