Review: Dare Devil Rides to Jarama – passion and politics

Review: Dare Devil Rides to Jarama – passion and politics

Racing into The Carriageworks, Communism meets motorbikes in Neil Gore‘s latest play…

Resuming their tour, Townsend Productions’ latest offering, Dare Devil Rides to Jarama, took to The Carriageworks stage in front of a compact yet committed audience. Townsend are a company committed to taking innovative, engaging theatre to diverse and often distant audiences, shouting their political message with real artistic clarity. This reputation is in evidence tonight, as the audience clap, sing and literally rattle along to a play whose message is clear: stand up for what you believe in, just like the company who are making this show.

‘The audience clap, sing and literally rattle along to a play whose message is clear: stand up for what you believe in, just like the company who are making this show.’

Despite the title’s allusion to one of the Spanish Civil War’s bloodiest battle grounds, Dare Devil Rides to Jarama is a play with a British heart; and a Northern heart at that. Our protagonist is Clem Beckett (David Heywood), a real-life character whose story has – like many with anti-establishment politics – been left out of the history books. Born in Oldham but adopted by Sheffield, Beckett made his name on the motorcycle tracks of Britain as one of the most fearless and skilful riders on the circuit. His main passion, however, was not bikes but workers’ rights. It is on this relationship between passion and politics that playwright Neil Gore focusses his script, neatly allegorising Beckett’s sporting prowess as a moving depiction of left-wing fervour.

‘Theatrically, both Heywood and Gore use their natural rapport and impressive musical talent to deliver what is a tragic story with real warmth’

Theatrically, both Heywood and Gore (who plays a series of different characters including Beckett’s companion Chris Caudwell) use their natural rapport and impressive musical talent to deliver what is a tragic story with real warmth. A memorable moment came with the use of puppetry to depict Beckett’s truly daredevil riding style, an effective technique for revealing the kind of blind determination that drove many young men to fight in another country’s civil war. In these times of political uncertainty, Dare Devil Rides to Jarama helps to question whether we are ever likely to witness the collaborative capacity of Europe’s left-wing again.

William Rees-Arnold

(Image courtesy of Daniella Beattie)

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