Can it really be eight years since I last saw Matthew Bourne's THE CAR MAN at Sadler's Wells, his inspired cut & shunt of CARMEN and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE? Yep and almost to the day. It was wonderful to experience it's potent power again.
Bourne is my favourite choreographer and his productions always excite and delight by the intriguing combination of stark Laban dance techniques but mixed with a musical theatre knack for story-telling and character. Sometimes productions can veer to opposite sides of the spectrum such as the overly-characterised EDWARD SCISSORHANDS or the po-faced DORIAN GRAY but when the combination is right there is no-one to touch him and THE CAR MAN is an excellent example.
Premiering in 2000, the show is Bourne's own tribute to the film noir genre of sexy, dangerous sirens being unfaithful to patsy husbands with bruised, brooding blue-collar men which inevitably leads to murder. Bourne had been asked to take on Bizet's CARMEN which he resisted but when he heard Rodion Schedrin's 40 minute version of the score for the Bolshoi ballet he was intrigued by it. He turned to composer and arranger Terry Davies to re-orchestrate parts of the score that Scherin hadn't used in a similar style which gave him a complete ballet.
Set in the fictional desert town of Harmony, the action takes place around Dino's Diner and Garage where the slovenly owner runs a troupe of tough mechanics who relentlessly pick on the secretly gay hired help Angelo. Add to all this the Diner's waitress Rita, who harbours a longing for Angelo and Dino's sexy and bored wife Lana and you know trouble's a-comin' - and it arrives in the lean, mean shape of Luca, a drifter who appears in the town and answers Lana's Man Wanted sign in every way.
Soon Lana and Angelo have both succumbed to Luca and the pressure-cooker finally blows when Dino is killed by Lana and Luca who frame Angelo as the killer. Finally together, Lana and Luca have to face the consequences of their actions when Angelo escapes....
Bizet's eternally-thrilling, choon-packed score zings along, the ominous Fate Motif appearing every so often to signal that a dangerous corner lies ahead for our principals and although I had seen it before, I was gripped by the excellent performances and Bourne's propulsive, muscular choreography driving the story along to it's inevitable conclusion.
As always, Lez Brotherston's set and costume design makes the show dazzling to see as does Chris Davey's lighting design. The ensemble were as excellent as any Bourne production has been, thrilling in their company routines and individually when given the opportunity, like Pia Driver as the slinky hostess of a nightclub and Kate Lyons, Andrew Monaghan and Dan Wright as the club's beatnik dance act.
It was a particular joy to see Alan Vincent as garage-owner Dino as when we first saw the show in 2007, Vincent played the title role of Luca. As well as the beatnik club dancer, Kate Lyons also played innocent Rita the lovelorn waitress and it was again a delight to see another Bourne favourite Dominic North as the hapless Angelo. North played Edward Scissorhands both times I have seen it as well as the hero Leo in SLEEPING BEAUTY and The Prince in the 2009 revival of SWAN LAKE and in the 2007 CAR MAN he was in the ensemble. Now in the featured role of Angelo he was excellent.
In the roles of the dangerous lovers Luca and Lana were Christopher Trenfield and Zizi Strallen and they brought a tortured, sexy elegance to the roles. But they did not quite equal the propulsive chemistry of Alan Vincent and Michaela Meazza in the 2007 production.
I loved having the chance to see this great production again and, as it was being filmed the night I went, hopefully it won't be long before possibly seeing it again.
Here is a nice interview with Matthew Bourne explaining about his production, enjoy!