Review - Matthew Bourne's The Car Man

I never know how to write about dance shows. I don't know enough dance terminology to accurately write about the performances, and so in the past I've tweeted enthusiastically and left the more in depth reviewing to others more knowledgeable than me. However, having just seen one of the most exciting, engaging shows I think I've ever had the fortune to witness live, a review on this blog is a must! 

I've been a big fan of Matthew Bourne since I saw his Sleeping Beauty televised at Christmas a few years ago. Since then, I've bought all the DVDs and caught every tour that's come through my city (I'm still gutted that I missed Edward Scissorhands! My sister dragged my mom to see it and they adored it!) and naturally when it was announced that Matthew Bournes 'sexy' dance thriller, The Car Man, which follows the jealousy and violence surrounding a mysterious new worker in a 1960s American garage, had been revived as a tour and would be passing through, I immediately bought myself a ticket. 

Finally, after 5 months of waiting, and having finished my 1st year of uni just the day before, the day came...

Aaaand, thank you again Matthew Bourne and New Adventures for providing me with a dynamic night of jaw dropping dance that was nothing short of electrifying. 

Sat in my seat (in the 3rd row, thanks to my local theatre's incredible 16-25 discovery ticket programme), what immediately struck me was the set design. The Car Man's first act took place in a hot, sticky 1960s american garage-diner. The set comprised of a large billboard, the front halves of several cars, a large metal structure which formed a two story office/apartment, and the diner itself. The whole thing looked and felt very fitting, and it seemed as greasy and gritty as you would imagine a place like that would be. Even before the show started I couldn't stop staring and noticing all the little details.

When the show finally began, however, and the audience was confronted by every single worker in the cafe-diner, suddenly there was so much more to look at that it took me a while to decide how to actually watch the show. I felt as if while I was watching one or two characters, three or four others were also doing something. The bustling atmosphere was brilliantly effective. The music used throughout the piece was Bizet's much loved Carmen, but the choreography was entirely new and hugely entertaining. Matthew Bourne's choreography always wows me as he manages to perfectly capture the very essence of the mindsets and emotions of his characters, and translate them into balletic form in the clearest yet most gripping, engrossing ways. The scenes are full of nonstop tension and excitement and I was so enthralled that at points I literally forgot to breath. 

As far as the cast is concerned, as always, every single cast member was absolutely outstanding. Zizi Strallen as Lana Alfano was impossible to take your eyes off. She's an exceptionally talented actress who really commands the stage, and her dancing is obviously fantastic too! She brought just the right amount of passion, cunning and convalescence to the role, and as a result her Lana was a joy to watch. Liam Mower's Angelo also had a fascinating journey, from young innocent to scarred and bloodied malefactor. I definitely found myself rooting for him, and clearly the audience is supposed to. Meanwhile Jonathan Olliver whose character Luca was the mysterious newcomer mechanic at the garage was such a huge presence on stage that frankly I was a little bit scared by how charismatic he was. He seemed to have every single character wrapped around his little finger, and I can totally understand why. His piecing stare and imposing figure demanded attention and both the audience and the characters he shared the stage with were more than happy to oblige him! I was also impressed by the cast members who played the mechanics, as each one had such a clearly defined personality and each brought something different to their roles. For me, cast members Layton Williams, Tom Clark and Danny Reubens gave particularly stand-out performances, although the cast as a whole was totally flawless. 

I feel like I've raved enough at this point, that it's clear I was hugely impressed by this show! So much so, in fact, that as soon as I got home I booked to see it again. What more can I say? With a unique concept, fabulous story (if any show deserves to be described as 'sexy', this one does.) and outstanding cast, The Car Man is guaranteed to drive audiences wild! 

Verdict - 5 Stars

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