The Car Man

Last night we went to see The Car Man at Sadlers Wells in Islington (on the way seeing a Banksy) The piece uses Bizet's music, but doesn't follow the plot of Carmen. It's set in the mid-west, and tells the story of a garage (car-man... gettit?) An odd-job man comes to town, and has his way with the owner's wife... and also one of the guys who works in the garage.

The owner discovers his wife and the new bloke in flagrante, and ends up being killed in the ensuing struggle. The chap who works in the garage is blamed for the crime.

There's more to it than that, it's really hard to explain a dance piece...

There are some really comic moments, and some great set-piece dances - the introduction of the odd-job guy is astounding, he dominates the stage. The guy who works in the garage has an admirer, and they work well together.

As the Independent says:

The best dance inspiration comes in the solo numbers, including a tour de force for Alan Vincent's Brando-esque stranger, wheeling off tables and chairs while swigging beer and wagging his bum to Bizet's famous "Seguidilla", landing back in his seat on the triumphant final chord as the waitress plonks down the food. Another highlight is the randy dance for Meazza's Lana, slapping the floor in her waitress pinny like Barbarella on Viagra.

It's also a little cheeky - in a way that is more likely to please the ladies, with a shower scene at the end of a sweaty working day.

In the second act, the action starts in a local nightclub (with what looks like an avant-garde cabaret act - which is quite funny). One of the chaps with a little bohemian goatie reminded me of 'Going Live' with some of the characters of 'Trevor and Simon'. The nightclub didn't really 'fit' the location, but it didn't matter - the set doubled as a gaol, and by changing the lighting moved from one to the other smoothly.

It's a good little show, and I haven't explained it well. Catch it if you can.

As is often the case with opera, ballet and dance, they milked the applause way too much for my tolerance. First the general claps for end of show, then the claps for each individual or each pair, then the line up, then the conductor, then the conductor with the lineup, then the lineup again.....

I'd agree with the Times review in every respect, which said:

In Bourne's tight and lucid scenario the action is set in a down-at-heel garage-diner in a sleepy Midwestern American hamlet (Harmony, pop 375) in the early 1960s. Lana, wife of the garage's owner, and her lover, the drifter Luca, kill her husband Dino and set up the hired help Angelo to take the rap. In the second half, the guilty lovers start to fall apart (and fall out) while the wronged man seeks a bitter and violent revenge. Bourne even adds a bisexual twist to his tale in the person of Luca.

Part film noir and part Grand-Guignol horror – with a dollop of Carry On-style humour – The Car Man reveals a wealth of references (both filmic and balletic) as it tries to play both sides of the comedy-tragedy divide. Sometimes it works startlingly well, at others the jokes (especially those involving the husband) diminish the drama.

The husband as a character was a weak spot. That said, the rest of the production is pretty good, and worth seeing.

The Car Man is touring in the UK, and it has yet to visit The Milton Keynes Theatre, Theatre Royal in Glasgow, Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, New Wimbledon Theatre, Regent Theatre in Stoke, Theatre Royal in Newcastle, New Victoria Theatre in Woking, His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen, Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, The Lowry in Salford and Birmingham Hippodrome (second source of tour information)