Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man

June 10, 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩    Impressive energy

Festival Theatre: Tues 9 – Sat 13 June 2015

Accomplished, athletic dancing and clever staging are present and correct in The Car Man. However, it lacks the emotional punch to be an unqualified success.

Despite using Bizet’s music, there is no real connection other than thematic with Carmen in Matthew Bourne’s award winning creation.

A scene from Matthew Bourne's The Car Man. Photo - Johan Persson

A scene from Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man. Photo: Johan Persson

Instead, it is more reminiscent of film noir, as drifter Luca arrives in small-town 60s USA and takes up a job with Dino, owner of the local garage and diner. Luca has a devastating effect on the inhabitants of the ironically named Harmony, not least on Dino’s abused wife Lana.

What are now referred to as ‘adult themes’: unbridled sexuality and nudity have made this piece notorious. Familiarity and the passage of even a few years have dulled its impact a little. This is not aided here by dancing that, while always more than accomplished, is oddly bloodless.

There is no doubting the quality of the lithe, sinewy muscularity of the opening sequence, but in time fascination is dissipated through constant dry-humping and other displays singularly lacking in the requisite lust and passion. It is never less than involving, but equally it is never as sexy, transgressive and dangerous as it wants to be.

crumbling relationship

Jonny Ollivier’s Luca is brooding, dark and dangerous, while Zizi Strallen’s Lana is all energy and beautifully extended lines. Both impress hugely in their first solos, yet there seems to a shortage of chemistry in their duets. The broken-down, alcoholic haze of their crumbling relationship is much more convincingly evoked than the dangerous passion of their first meetings, which tends to undermine much of the plot.

The ensemble of Matthew Bourne's The Car Man. Photo: Johan Persson

The ensemble of Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man. Photo: Johan Persson

There seems more of a connection between Kate Lyons, as Lana’s sister Rita, and Liam Mower, who plays the bullied and confused ‘hired help’ Angelo. Their duets are more expressive and involving, thanks to Mower’s emotional transparency and Lyons’s versatility.

Alan Vincent, Luca in the original production, returns here as the abusive Dino, and shows himself to be a compelling actor as well as a mover of genuine style and grace. The rest of the company are dancers of the highest quality and are utterly committed, providing a constant whirl of energy and exertion.

Despite their efforts, however, the choreography starts to lack variation, and there is a definite lack of sparkle at times. This missing passion serves to point up some of the faults in the production’s conception. The plot itself shows why the ‘dance thriller’ is not such a common genre; the storyline lacks cohesion and the second half in particular is overstretched.

Lez Brotherston’s set is imposing, versatile and brutally beautiful, while Bizet’s music, both in Shchedrin’s older suite and Terry Davies’s more modern arrangements, is impressively used.

The ambition, bravery and emotional clarity associated with Matthew Bourne are certainly in evidence here. But, with this revival shorn of some of its power, the sureness of touch you would also associate with Bourne is absent.

Running time: 2 hours (including interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 June 2015
Evenings at 7.30 pm, Saturday matinee at 2.30 pm
Full details and tickets at: http://www.edtheatres.com/carman

Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man on tour 2015:
9 – 13 June 2015 Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
16 – 20 June 2015 Leicester
Curve Theatre
0116 242 3595 Book online
23 – 27 June 2015 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
14 July 2015 – 9 August 2015 London
Sadlers Wells
0844 412 4300 Book online

ENDS

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