sat 10/12/2022

The Car Man, Royal Albert Hall review - grand scale drama and decadence | reviews, news & interviews

The Car Man, Royal Albert Hall review - grand scale drama and decadence

The Car Man, Royal Albert Hall review - grand scale drama and decadence

An explosive restaging of the original dance drama

'The Car Man' - overt, playful and sensual

Ever since his re-staging of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Matthew Bourne has managed to update the art of storytelling through dance steps and gesture in a way that others have struggled to achieve.

This new re-working of his 2000 dance-noir, The Car Man, has been adapted for the Royal Albert Hall with a catwalk stage that allows the audience to get up close and very personal with the dancers.

In "Harmony, population 975", a mysterious stranger (Will Bozier as Luca) arrives in answer to a sign that reads "Man Wanted", and carnal havoc ensues. Lana, played seductively by Zizi Strallen, grows into her role as femme fatale but it is Paris Fitzpatrick as Angelo who has the most remarkable character transformation from the bullied weakling to vengeful conquistador.

Rodion Shchedrin's rousing arrangement of Bizet's original music that we all know so well gives a sense of cognizance to this lusty thriller. Flamenco movements have been reimagined as intensely powerful yee-haw physical theatre with thigh-slapping and split lifts, stamping in worker boots, pelvic thrusts and flirty gyration that's more in-your-face American music video than fiery bailaora passion.

Scene from Matthew Bourne's The Car Man

At times dancers lounge, moving languidly, slow and low conveying the unbearable heat – but aren’t averse to sweating it out in orgy-scenes with explicit choreography seeing characters driven by misogyny and testosterone, bisexual desire and malice. It is overt, playful and sensual, from jiving hoedowns at the neon-lit diner through Bozier’s domineering "Habanera" solo to a witty full cast Toreador song starring an irreverent mime-artist scene.

Amidst the box-office draw of raunch and gusto there were poignant moments too – seen not least in the scenes which reflected perfectly the dangerous manipulation and control of guns, broken systems and the darker side of the great American dream.

The action is easy to follow, as the choreography is such a brilliant fusion of pedestrian movements, impressive gymnastic tricks and dramatic flair, with a sleek contemporary dance verve that is signature Bourne style. I do wonder if they could have done without their faces projected up on the big screens though, as the Dallas-style close ups were a little much – there’s more than enough physical expression here to keep audiences engaged.

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