THE CAR MAN – New Wimbledon Theatre, London.
Matthew Bourne is a master storyteller, and his dance company New Adventures have built up quite a reputation for creating inventive and exciting shows that put a new spin on well-known stories. The Car Man is no different. Perhaps his most dramatic piece, it is loosely based on Bizet’s Carmen, and features orchestrations by Rodin Shchedrin with additional music by Terry Davies. It is a tale of lust, murder and revenge played out through a unique blend of contemporary dance and drama.
Bourne requires a lot of his cast. As well as having stunning technique, they must deliver equally strong acting performances and there is not a single person on stage who does not rise to the challenge. Each role is shared by several dancers, keeping both the production and the company fresh. No two performances will be the same.
The story is transported to a small town in the American mid-west in the 1960’s and takes place in and around Dino’s Garage and Diner. A stranger Luca, (played at this performance by Chris Trenfield) rolls into town looking for work and sets his eyes on Lana, (the sensational Zizi Strallen), the abused wife of Dino (Alan Vincent, incidentally the creator of the role of Luca in the original production). They begin a passionate but doomed affair. Dino discovers them and attacks the loves in a fit of jealous rage. The resulting tragedy has far-reaching consequences for the couple, Angelo (Liam Mower) who is swept up in the plot and Lana’s sister Rita (Kate Lyons).
The powerful score and imaginative choreography is infused with humour and drama in equal measure. The ensemble fill the stage with vibrant energy in the group numbers, while heartfelt solos transform the atmosphere into one of quiet introspection. The set and costumes by Lez Brotherston invoke the culture and period of this reimagined story, and lighting by Chris Davey adds further drama. The resulting show is dynamic and engaging, the emotions of the characters are palpable as the plot unfolds.
The Car Man is bold and gritty, and filled with a wit and creative spark that Matthew Bourne is famous for. Emotionally charged and thoroughly entertaining, this revival has everything. Audiences not familiar with Bourne’s work will be hooked and those already converted to his particular style will not be disappointed.
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By Catherine Duffy