Bristol Hippodrome

 

The Car Man - May 2015

 

WARNING: X-rated! This review contains sexually explicit language. Never written that about a ballet before but then this is The Car Man at the Bristol Hippodrome this week

 

The Car Man is electrifying – an AC/DC ballet which fuses Grease and West Side Story then charges it with Dirty Dancing.

And not a word is spoken - all the love and longing is portrayed by movement intertwined with a seductive musical score.

It certainly heats up the theatre which was in turn filled with giggles, applause, gasps and silence.

This contemporary ballet choreographed by dance genius Matthew Bourne sizzled at the Bristol Hippodrome on its first night - Tuesday night, May 19.

There was no curtain up and as you walked into the auditorium the dancers were already on stage going about their business.

Based loosely on Bizet’s opera this homoerotic interpretation is a passionate tale of lust, seduction and betrayal played back-to-back!

Gone is the familiar 19th century Spanish cigarette factory and in its place is a small town called Harmony with its greasy garage come diner.

I was warned (or promised) there would be ‘fleeting nudity’ but this didn’t prepare me for the full frontals moments into the action.

Having seen a cheeky glimpse of Will Young’s derriere in Cabaret and the big buns during Calendar Girls plus a few wardrobe malfunctions, naked people on the Bristol stage is nothing new.

But the boys from the upstairs bathhouse having a steamy shower and emerging wearing loose white towels or ‘nothing but a wiggly’ prompted hoots of laughter and looking.

The mainly middle-aged, middle class audience were mostly gagging for more.

This ballet is all about the US in the 1960s where the dreams and passions of a small town are shattered by the arrival of a handsome stranger.

Fuelled by heat and desire, the inhabitants are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge.

Inspired by classic film noir of European and US cinema and the crime fiction novels of James M Cain and Raymond Chandler with epic design by Lez Brotherston, evocative lighting by Chris Davey and vivid storytelling by Matthew Bourne all create a dangerous and uncompromising vision of a blue collar America.

The timing is perfect, the use of incidental noises like a bang or beat is atmospheric – you can’t fault this show, it is experimental theatre at its best.

The motors roared, revved and raced – like the dance performances while the sign at the end recommended visitors to Harmony ‘drive safely’.

And everyone got in a sweat when the beer-swigging mechanics worked, fought and played.

I loved the twitching telegraph poles, neon halo, fire escape stairs and red glow and especially the wimp who became a wronged man, the wicked wife and the bully of a husband – the character portrayals were wonderful.

There is much suggestion - from the post coital smoke to the Kim Kardashian posterior poses, from the phallic use of a lump of limp pastry to the simulated sex in all directions - all stimulating the imagination.

Standout performances came from all the leading lights Alan Vincent, Zizi Strallen, Katy Lowenhoff, Dominic North and Chris Trenfield plus the supporting company.

Give the physical demands of the title roles these alternate on different nights.

Luca is played by Alan and Jonathan Ollivier.

Both these male leads danced in Bourne’s critically acclaimed Swan Lake.

Leaving the theatre on Tuesday evening the buzz was palatable.

Alison Walker said: “For me The Car Man was a dance interpretation of West Side Story, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Carmen the opera.

“It was so eloquently done that you can hardly believe not a single word was spoken or a song was sung.

“You feel empathy for all the main characters, the young woman trapped in a loveless marriage, the new worker with whom she embarks in a fatal affair and the young tormented boy struggling with his sexuality who also becomes embroiled with the new worker.

“The plot twists and turns and leaves you wanting more.

“I would love to see this again - it is brilliant theatre.”

Fan Madeline Middleton said: “This mesmerising love story based on betrayal and murder is amazing."

The Car Man which was first seen in 2000 plays the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, May 23.

For tickets and more information click HERE.

Carol Deacon

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