Dance review: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man
Sex and violence in small town USA
Although the air in the Festival Theatre remains pleasantly temperate throughout, there are moments during The Car Man when you can’t help but feel the heat. It’s in the way the girls fan their dresses, the boys pull at their collars or take their t-shirts off altogether. It’s also in the way choreographer Matthew Bourne makes his company move, evoking a hot summer night in 1960s small town America, where fornicating or fighting are the only options.
Just over 15 years after The Car Man first drove onto the stage, this dramatic re-imagining of Bizet’s Carmen has lost none of its capacity to thrill. Lez Brotherston’s clever set takes us straight to the heart of the hot, sweaty garage where the menfolk work, and the cheap diner where their girlfriends wait to hook up with them afterwards.
Into this hedonistic world walks Luca (played brilliantly by Jonathan Ollivier), a muscular drifter looking for work and sex – both of which he finds with minimal effort. What starts as banter with an undercurrent of violence soon escalates to the real thing, until a bloody climax leaves the town of Harmony filled with anything but.
Taking their bow at the end, the cast looks utterly drained, both physically and emotionally (shaking off their characters, they bound back on all smiles for a curtain call) and no wonder. Bourne’s journey into the dark side of humanity, and the devastating impact of a guilty conscience, generate enough energy to power the small town it takes place in.