If you’ve ever been to any of the bicycle raves that run a few times a year in Wellington and that are the brainchild of some of the same crowd that are Lucid Dreambike, you’d be expecting a pretty raucous time. You’d expect whole constellations of bedazzled cyclists looping like moths around a thumping bicycle-mounted sound system to non-stop 80s hits. Sort of a Critical-Mass meets Awful-Nightclub vibe.
Lucid Dreambike’sFringe Festival 2019 offering, There Are Other Worlds They Have Not Told You Of…,isn’t that. It’s much more considered and is more of a surreally-curated mini-festival than a show. It’s also a very rich experience, though you should probably be on something a lot stronger than tea to get the full benefit of this experience. I’m pretty sure there are more performers than audience each night, as we’re guided on our bicycles through at least eight tiny and oddly beautiful dissonant installations, in between roving attacks on our party by offensive bicycle-hating baby-boomers on mobility scooters (they’re part of it, and leap out of side streets to snarl at us like bicycle-hating Alsatians defending their property values whenever we pass through an expensive suburb).
The whole piece is a bit of a dark surreal hymn to some of the wonderful, hidden parts of Wellington you’ll never see if you use a car to get about. But get about we do.
It’s the sort of experience you’ll never be able to buy. It’s like seeing the entire Fringe festival though the eye of a needle in one night while riding a bicycle. Our dream guide is a long-drowned Edwardian oceanographer, who leads us around the city where we encounter strange, surreal performance experiences in different nooks and crannies of the city. It goes on. And on. And on.
Each performance we encounter is tiny and beautiful in its way. There is a duet between lovers parted by a motorway set to violin and bodhran, hand-animated breastfeeding of salamanders, roving bands of wolves and wet-nurses. I want to talk about the weird magic of each of these at length, but like anyone describing a dream, it’s really best if you were there.
My final impression was really just my increasing awe at the sheer level of work required to create this entire experience for a mere thirty people a night. When I think of the Fringe Festival, I often think of 60-minute shows at BATS, but this three-and-a-half hour epic is more akin to an eclectic full-scale opera sprawled across the city, performed by dozens and dozens of people in the edges and corners of the Wellington night to a total audience of under a hundred for the entire season.
The concept of lucid dreaming is to enter a dream state while still self-aware and able to direct yourself through your dream. And on a bike you’re never passive. You’re always swooping around, through and past, and many of the performance pieces are best sampled while cycling. If there’s one criticism it’s that most of the works aren’t made by cyclists, and so you have to get off your bike to experience them. Having said that they’re still beautiful, odd, and delicious.
I’m a serious cyclist. You don’t have to be to partake in this, but you do need to be comfortable handling a bicycle. If you’re a casual cyclist, this is the sort of second-date to take someone on that’ll make them think you’re an amazing human connected to some underground zeitgeist for years to come. It’s an impressive thing to even be a part of. As someone we pass shrieks at us: “What is this, what are you doing, how do I find out about it?”
But be prepared. It takes at least three full hours. It will be a whirlwind, and you will cover around eighteen kilometers if you cycle up to the start (although on my Strava log, 1.6 kilometers of that seems to be me doing loops around an African drum circle whilst sort of awkwardly bike-dancing). So be prepared for some serious riding and take a good bike, not that crazy single-speed tandem or penny farthing you have lying around. If your experience is like mine, you’ll be negotiating pathways, graveyards, drunken students enticed by the shrieking and drumming, kerbs, fountains, gravel, a large fluffy dog that comes and runs with us, as well as twenty-nine other equally distracted cyclists.
Though in the end, it’s not about the bike. It’s about the dream.
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