The Car Man
- Kirstin Innes
- 6 September 2007
Everyone loves a drifter. The myths of whole countries have been built around those beautiful, denim-clad strangers who roll into towns to stir up trouble. It’s a conceit that works much better in small-town America than, say, Motherwell, which Matthew Bourne realised when updating Carmen into a dance piece for his company seven years ago. Bizet’s original score is as equally suited to an itchily sweltering summer in a desert-town garage and diner as a Spanish cigarette factory, and sex seeps as inexorably through the whole production, but The Car Man, currently in the sweaty throes of a revival tour, is not just a straightforward balletic retelling of the opera.
The giggling cigarette girls of Carmen’s chorus are replaced by a grease and testosterone-spattered cors de ballet of burly labourers in wife-beater vests, and Carmen herself by a car man (see what they did there?), morally ambiguous, omnisexual mechanic Luca, just passing through and seducing whichever local boys and girls take his fancy.
Bourne’s long-term leading man Andre Vincent will be taking the central role for some of the performances, but he’s joined this time around by young Aberdonian dancer James Leece, in one of his first major parts for the company.
‘We double up the roles because Luca is such a demanding part that it’s not physically possible for one person to dance him every night,’ says Leece. ‘This is a dream role for me - it has been ever since the piece toured in 2000. It’s so sexually charged for a ballet, too, all that adultery, murder and guilt!’
Leece started out fluttering his feathers in the cors of Bourne’s seminal reinvention of Swan Lake and has worked his way up the company. ‘Matthew is brilliant for that - he gives young dancers opportunities that they just wouldn’t get in other companies, and he likes you to bring your own interpretation to the role, no matter how established the production. Eventually, it all comes back to haunt Luca, of course, and although it’s pretty strong, stimulating stuff, the audiences always love it.’
Theatre Royal, Glasgow Tue 11-Sat 15 Sep; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh in October.