AT: The Common Wheel A: Stewart Parker Pf: 1978, New Haven, Connecticut Pb: 1979 G: Com. in 2 acts; prose and songs S: Bicycle shop, Belfast, 1890–1900s, 1914, 1970s C: 4m, 2fAfter an introductory song, Frank Stock, whose shop is about to be demolished for a new road, appeals before a public inquiry to have cars replaced by bicycles. Daisy (Margaret Bell), a teacher, brings in an old bike for repair. Back in the 1890s, a clergyman complains to Frank's grandfather Francis Stock about the immorality of the bicycle. Francis falls in love with fellow cyclist Kitty Carberry, a woman with very progressive ideas. Thanks to the new tyres of Ulsterman John Boyd Dunlop, Francis wins a major cycle race. 1970s: Frank's younger brother Julian, a journalist, arrives home from England, surprised about the normality of life in Belfast. 1900s: Francis marries Kitty without her father's blessing. Francis joins the British army to fight in the Great War, and Kitty insists on becoming pregnant before he leaves. 1970s: Julian charms Daisy into coming with him to London. Duncan, Daisy's father, a loyalist racketeer, tries to get Frank to make a donation to his ‘loyalist’ gunmen after a car bomb goes off opposite Frank's shop. Julian, to whom the shop was willed, sells it to Duncan for a new headquarters. Julian is questioned by the army, who insist he leave Belfast at once. Daisy buys the shop, threatening her father with the police if he objects, and Frank fetches out a tandem for them both.
AT: The Common Wheel A: Stewart Parker Pf: 1978, New Haven, Connecticut Pb: 1979 G: Com. in 2 acts; prose and songs S: Bicycle shop, Belfast, 1890–1900s, 1914, 1970s C: 4m, 2f
Bicycles, with a Trick Cyclist featuring prominently, offer a splendidly theatrical element to this amusing piece by Northern Irish writer Stewart Parker. They are also a metaphor for good common sense which the political strife in Belfast singularly fails to display. Clearly, bicycles are a healthier, cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to the motor car, but few will actually use them. In the same way, Belfast careers towards its own self-destruction both through demolition for roads and through bombs.