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)

A Sleeping Beauty Tale

Last night we went to see The Northern Ballet's 'A Sleeping Beauty Tale', with music by Tchaikovsky. Obviously it was based upon the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. This is Tchaikovsky's ballet re-imagined as a story of the people of the red and blue planets. There are spacecraft (I kid you not) and at one point, laser guns.

I recognised several of the dancers from The Three Musketeers, but it didn't really have the same energy as that excellent production. The thing seemed to plod a little. There was an opening introductory speech, followed by several minutes of curtain down whilst they did things to scenery.

The main set seemed to be in a tunnel, the flats were cut circularly. The concentric rings tended to make me think 'Tha.. tha.. that... that's all, folks!', which I don't think was the intended effect.

The entrance of the main dancer was good, she was revealed to be inside a golden ball. The cover was removed to reveal a plastic sphere with her inside. I'm amazed she didn't cramp, it was a tiny ball! Her 'first steps' were well done too, quite comic, but she was soon pirouetting and leaping with everyone else.

The 'revamp' doesn't really work for me. Tchaikovsky? Spaceships? I'm not saying this as someone who's precious about the ballet, I'm not, I just didn't think it worked. There was one guy (from the 'red planet' who reminded me of a Babylon 5 Centauri.

Essentially, the ballet followed the same structure as the classic, but instead of a spinning wheel, the princess is stabbed by a red and put into a hibernation. In the meantime the planet is ransacked by reds. This continues until Aurora is roused.

The third act dragged on somewhat, it essentially consisted of the reds slaughtering the blues, a couple of blues looking for the beauty, the red-leader (make up your own Star Wars jokes) chasing them. There was a bit of dancing around and red-leader didn't make it (he didn't die by impacting the surface). The beauty (Aurora) and a blue got it together.

As is often the case with ballet, the curtain call went on for way too long.

After The Three Musketeers, there was a high bar to clear, and for me, this fell short.

Rambert Dance Company

Last night, Monica and I went to see The Rambert Dance Company at Woking. When I say the word, 'see' I used that advisably. Monica says it was good. I'm afraid to say that I fell asleep, it's been a long week.

I did see bits of it though, it was pretty, it was athletic, but it was all about the movement; There was no overriding narrative but there were narrative elements. For example, in Lady into Fox', we see members of the hunt at a party. The hostess turns into a fox. The husband is concerned by this, understandably. She's then hunted.

I think the three pieces we saw were 'Stand and Stare', 'Lady into Fox' and 'Constant Speed'.

Whilst I really enjoyed seeing the Northern Ballet and the Bolshoi, the Rambert didn't keep my attention - as evidenced by my snooziness. The audience did give it a big round of applause at the end - which woke me up.

I feel like such a philistine!