The Car Man

Matthew Bourne, music by Terry Davies and Rhodion Shchedrin's Carmen Suite (after Bizet's Carmen)
New Adventures and Re: Bourne
Sadler's Wells

The Cast
The Cast
The Cast

The Car Man, subtitled “Bizet's Carmen Re-imagined”, is now 15 years old and, through its various iterations, Matthew Bourne and his creative colleagues have honed it close to perfection.

Bourne's thrilling piece uses music drawn from Bizet's Carmen via Rhodion Shchedrin's Carmen Suite but the plot is different, borrowed from Forties Film Noir classic, The Postman Always Rings Twice.

The music itself has also been spiced up by Terry Davies, primarily through the introduction of lively and varied percussion.

Lez Brotherston's set depicts the ironically named Harmony with its population of 375 and evokes Edward Hopper's vision of small-town America.

The main focal points are a busy car repair shop and Dino's Diner. The drama is provoked by the owner of both of these establishments who has had the misfortune (or arguably stupidity) to marry a pretty young wife.

All names quoted hereafter are from the opening night cast.

Zizi Strallen's Lana is not only gorgeous but flighty, invoking jealousy in Alan Vincent, who has now progressed to playing angry Dino, having created the part of Luca the drifter all those years ago.

The bitterness comes to a head with the arrival, like some baddie in a Western, of Christopher Trenfield playing the aforementioned Luca, danger incarnate or, if you prefer, sex on legs.

As soon as the cat goes away, the mice play, in a manner that is as steamy as dance is ever likely to get. In a twist that comes from none of the original sources, so lustful and evil is Luca that his affairs spread to both sexes in an electrifying series of erotic vignettes.

The passion that he evokes is contrasted with the quieter courting of the town's two innocents, Kate Lyons playing Lana's sister Rita and Liam Mower, who might be the pick of the dancers in this wonderful cast, as Angelo.

Blood flows soon after Dino returns, and justly leading to imprisonment for the righteous and enrichment for the wicked, but this is Dance Noir.

Along the way, there are also some cracking fights, which satisfyingly combine almost fearsome depictions of violence with impeccably choreographed dance.

After the interval in the two-hour performance, the world seeks to right itself, to the extent that this is possible in such a genre, providing gripping entertainment to the end.

The Car Man is a wonderful mixture of thrilling choreography, delivered by a marvellous team of dancers, and pathos in its story-telling. The combination is now so slick but artful that it should have equal appeal to fans of dance and drama.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher