The New Adventures production of British director and choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne OBE’s 2000 dance production, The Car Man, filmed in 2015 during its most recent revival at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, is a ballet loosely based on Georges Bizet’s beloved 1875 opera, Carmen. But Bourne’s reworking of the opera’s plot is closer in spirit to The Postman Only Rings Twice by James M. Cain or a play by Tennessee Williams. Sexy and thrilling, this ballet carries the spirit of seduction and bohemian living that Carmen is all about.
Instead of the familiar setting in a Spanish cigarette factory, the show is re-imagined in a greasy garage-diner in the American town of Harmony in the 1960’s. Both Les Brotherton’s set design and Chris Davey’s lighting are very cinematic, and watching the production feels more like watching a movie. Davey and Brotherton use on-screen titling for the character names and information, and a rich mix of recorded sound effects. Brotherton is also the production’s costume designer.
The plot is all about greed, lust, betrayal, and revenge. Lana (played by Zizi Strallen) is fed up with her domineering husband Dino (Alan Vincent), the garage-diner’s owner, and takes every opportunity to flirt in order to find some escape. At the other end of the scale, Angelo (Dominic North), who doesn’t fit in with the masculine ideal, is treated as the local loser. Angelo is blind to the innocent affections of Rita (Kate Lyons), who — unlike her sister Lana — is not interested in the debauchery all around her.
Their worlds are turned upside down with the arrival of a handsome stranger, Luca (Chris Trenfield), a.k.a. “The Car Man,” who flirts his way through the town, before settling on both Lana and Angelo. First, he seduces Angelo in one of the cars, then he seduces Lana in her marital bed. Soon after, at a party, Dino begins to suspect Luca, and follows him and Lana as they head to the garage, where Dino catches them in the act.
When a murder is committed and the wrong person is arrested, the community reacts with anger and violence. To add a psychological side, Matthew Bourne adds flashbacks and ghostly apparitions of dead characters, Banquo-style.
The dancers in this 2016 film include Cordelia Braithwaite, Tom Clark, Daniel Collins, Pia Driver, Glenn Graham, Nicole Kabera, Katrina Lyndon, Andrew Monaghan, Leon Moran, Danny Reubens, Katie Webb, and Daniel Wright.
This dark, gritty narrative shows off everything that Matthew Bourne does best. But not all of the dances (in this production called, “phrases”) are dark and gritty. The “Beatniks” phrase in Act 2 takes place in a bar with a comic nod to 1960’s modern dance. Later in the phrase, the cowboys dance — most certainly a nod to Agnes de Mille’s choreography in Oklahoma. The prison-cell dances are beautiful, dark, and disturbing — especially Angelo’s solo in handcuffs, which combines classical ballet with modern angular poses.
The Car Man uses the Rodion Shchedrin’s 1967 Carmen Suite, based on Bizet’s original Carmen and created for the Bolshoi Ballet, which is reworked and built upon by Terry Davies. If you are extremely familiar with Carmen, you’ll definitely notice that the music has been rearranged. But musically, it is a superb piece, and excellently reworked to suit the setting and the story. Conductor Brett Morris’ small orchestra is top-notch, especially the xylophone player!
Sexy, dirty, and poetic, The Car Man is a feast for all the senses: a visual display of the body and a psychological display of the inner workings of the mind. The Shows Must Go On’s YouTube channel offers FREE viewing of this show for seven days, beginning on Friday, April 16th. This show contains scenes of an adult nature.
CALENDAR LISTING: April 16-23: The Car Man (2015 Sadler’s Wells Theatre production of Sir Matthew Bourne OBE’s reimagination of Georges Bizet’s Carmen), with music by Terry Davies and Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite ballet (after Bizet’s Carmen) and production design by Lez Brotherston, directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne and starring Chris Trenfield as Luca (“The Car Man”), Zizi Strallen as Lana, Dominic North as Angelo, Kate Lyons as Lana’s sister Rita, Alan Vincent as Dino Alfano, and Danny Collins (The Shows Must Go On via YouTube). TEASER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMFSOvj7hsI. TRAILER: https://youtu.be/lpzt3lGmCZ8. SHOW PAGES: https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2015/matthew-bournes-the-car-man/ (Sadler’s Wells) and https://new-adventures.net/the-car-man#overview (New Adventures). INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE PAGE: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6423486/. TICKETS: FREE to stream until 2 p.m. Friday, April 23rd. PLEASE DONATE TO: Acting for Others (U.K.).
Nancy Rich is a local director/choreographer, with a love for the performing arts and a passion for supporting local artistic work. Nancy and her husband, Rod, own and operate Monkeybravo, a video production company. Nancy is one of the founders of Actors Comedy Lab and participates in local theater as a hired gun, a volunteer and, on very rare occasions, an actor. Nancy recently wrote a series of monologues called The PRINCESS Talks, performed at the 2017 Women’s Theatre Festival. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.