The Car Man (4 stars)

The Car Man

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 30 Oct–Sat 3 Nov


The small town of Harmony, USA has two things in abundance – heat and hormones. Both of which drive the town’s spirited young folk to acts of lust, infidelity and violence. Originally created in 2000, The Car Man is Matthew Bourne’s most ‘adult’ show to date. The sex scenes border on orgiastic, while the fight scenes have a blood-spattered intensity more reminiscent of film.

Indeed, Bourne’s love of film is evident throughout, with split screens, flashbacks and scenes fading in and out. The dusty heat of 1950s and 60s European cinema was his biggest influence, and it’s easy to imagine a young Sophia Loren strolling across the stage at any minute. Yet the show is still hugely theatrical, with innovative set design, dynamic choreography and Bizet’s punchy score.

As with all Bourne’s productions, storytelling is all, and it’s hard to imagine anyone walking out of this show confused. Themes and layers come and go, but the central story is never less than crystal clear. The original Carman may have been Bourne’s initial inspiration, but little of Bizet’s opera remains. The cigar factory is now a garage/diner, complete with life-size moveable cars and food counter. Carman herself has been split into two characters – one male, one female – so it’s up to us to decide who wreaks the most havoc.

There are less laughs here than in Nutcracker!, less tears than Swan Lake and less ingenuity than Play Without Words, but this is still entertaining dance theatre as only Bourne knows how.

The Car Man

  • 4 stars

Bizet's 'Carmen' is re-imagined by the enfant terrible of musical theatre, Matthew Bourne. The tale of passion, romance and bullfighting is transported to a 1960s American garage-diner. Ages 12+

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