Music: Terry Davies and Rodion Shcedrin’s Carmen Suite
Director and Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
Matthew Bourne is without doubt, a creative genius. The Car Man, which is currently touring and plays at the Lowry this week, is simply outstanding. A sizzling hot fusion of Shcedrin’s classical score and Bourne’s scorching choreography, set against the background of a small, fictional, western American town called Harmony.
The majority of the plot is set around a mechanics yard where the drifter Luca, played by Jonny Olliver, gets hired, and from this set of circumstances the plot unravels. The opening ensemble number setting the scene of the mechanics yard is a vibrant, denim-clad dance. This is a really sensational way to open the show, set the scene and introduces the characters which is done with such a seamless sense of effortlessness from the company yet creates a feast for the eyes of the audience.
Olliver and Zizi Strallen as Luca and the sensual vixen Lana play their relationship beautifully, Strallen’s movement superbly echoes Lana’s desire for male affection. What is wonderful about both Bourne’s choreography and his dancers, in a production as sexual as this, is that the movement seems natural. So often sex, desire and sexual cravings, when played out on stage can seem awkward, tawdry or tasteless; not so in this production. Strallen’s character may be willing to cheapen herself, however her performance is pure, solid gold.
This production is stock full of stand-out moments and five-star performances. Each member of the company deserves recognition. Tom Clarke, having recently featured in Bourne’s Edward Scissor Hands plays an excellent part as “Hot” Rod alongside Layton Williams as the endearing Chad.
The moments in the production that really tug at the heart strings are the two duets between Kate Lyons and Liam Mower as Rita and Angelo. In act one they move together as a shy young pair preparing to share their feelings towards one another. The movement is delicate, measured, with gentle lifts and embraces beautifully choreographed using two chairs as a simple platform. However in act two, after Mower’s character has spent time in jail experiencing some of the terrors of that institution, they duet again and the change in their relationship is demonstrated so beautifully through their movement and characterisation, it is quite haunting.
Mower is incredible as Angelo. The physical and emotional transformation of his character throughout the performance is startling. The audience really get a sense of the hardship the character has encountered through his physicality and movement. His shackled, jailhouse solo, backed by the caged ensemble is devastatingly moving.
The entire production is faultless. Lez Brotherston’s design sets off the movement gorgeously; one can almost feel the heat and the atmosphere of the town from the stalls of the auditorium. The simple, seamless way the set transforms from mechanics yard, to a diner, a club, a jailhouse, is yet another addition to the long list of reasons why this is a such a sensational show. The entire production team, both cast and crew, deserves congratulations for playing their part in making The Car Man such an awesome piece of theatre.
The Car Man is definitely one of those breathtaking productions that will stay with you for a life time.
Runs until30th May and continues to tour| Photo Chris Mann