DanceLondonReview

The Car Man – Royal Albert Hall, London

Reviewer: Miriam Sallon

Choreographer and Director: Matthew Bourne

Composers: Terry Davies, Rodion Shchedrin, Georges Bizet

Whilst suffering a few meek cries of controversy over the years, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man has been generally lauded as brilliant, exhilarating, and breath-taking. Having first premiered in 2000, it saw the stage again in 2015, again to great acclaim. So the only concern, one supposes, is that it might have dated since. Well, it hasn’t. If anything, it is more of this time than its own, combining fervent sexuality with mountains of glorious kitsch and, still, a thin core of rooting earnestness.

The only difference between then and now is the scope. At 65-strong, the cast has almost tripled since its premiere. The stage is now flanked with two huge billboards showing ‘50s car ads, dusty desert landscapes and, most importantly, ridiculously over-the-top telenovela-style close-ups of various characters as they have a moment of revelation or make lustful eyes across the stage. This, along with the frankly silly title, and plenty other design decisions, ensures that whilst the plot is pretty gruesome, the overall effect is one of delight and gratification.

Where Bourne has occasionally been guilty of requiring more mime than dance to express a complicated plot, he has struck a perfect balance here. Combining the tango thrust with balletic grace, and a good dose of bottom wiggling, he somehow conveys a fairly complex storyline through choreography that is both artistically thrilling and brilliantly entertaining.

Bourne claims the story has hardly anything to do with Bizet’s original plot, but really they give the audience the same thing, not in the shape of the sexual Carmen figure (Zizi Strallen), or even the eponymous ‘Car Man’ (identified by Bourne as the drifter character Luca played by Will Bozier) but in the moral tumblings of Angelo, played by Paris Fitzpatrick, a sweet innocent who falls in love with Luca, only to be tossed aside and treacherously betrayed. Angelo is the show’s heart, along with his wide-eyed girlfriend Rita (Kayla Collymore), and whereas most other characters are salacious and tumultuous in turn, Fitzpatrick is simply magnetic.

Goodness knows why anyone bothered to call this homoerotic when it’s erotic in every sense, as well as funny, beautiful and exceptionally clever.

Runs until: 19 June 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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