Matthew Bourne's revisited version of his The Car Man, first seen in 2000, has just completed 14 performances at the Royal Albert Hall – a new staging for the Royal Albert Hall's 150th anniversary.
It is a “dance-thriller based on Bizet's beloved Carmen” with designs by Bourne's habitual collaborator, Lez Brotherston.
The expanded company boasted 65 dancers and musicians in the greasy garage-diner in 1960s America where the arrival of a handsome stranger shatters a small-town's dreams. Fuelled by heat and desire, the inhabitants are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge.
The run featured two casts, both seen in Dasa Wharton's photos below:
CHEVROLET CAST – dress rehearsal 9 June 2022
Luca – Will Bozier
Lana – Zizi Strallen
Angelo – Paris Fitzpatrick
Rita – Kayla Collymore
Dino – Alan Vincent
CADILLAC CAST – opening night cast 9 June 2022
Luca – Richard Winsor
Lana – Ashley Shaw
Angelo – Dominic North
Rita – Kate Lyons
Dino – Alan Vincent
Matthew Bourne must rank as one of the smartest populist theatre-makers on the planet. There was never much doubt that this expanded revival of his steamy dance take on Carmen was going to look at home in the vastness of Royal Albert Hall. Certainly the three dozen or so dancers on stage on the press night delivered about as full-out and hot-blooded a performance as could be wished.
Matthew Bourne's vivid storytelling combines with one of the most passionately dramatic scores ever written, with musical arrangements by Terry Davies featuring Rodion Shchedrin's Carmen Suite (after Bizet's Carmen), to create a dance event like no other.
The drifter Luca, powerfully danced on press night by Will Bozier, walks lazily the length of the road, arriving to cause havoc among the inhabitants of the small town: Dino, the brutish owner of the diner and garage (Alan Vincent), his frustrated younger wife Lana (Zizzi Strallen in great form on her return to the role), Angelo, a gentle young gay man (Paris Fitzpatrick, deeply affecting) and Lana's sister, Rita (Kayla Collymore), who's in love with Angelo.
Each corresponds loosely to characters in Bizet's opera Carmen, and the work is danced to Rodion Shchedrin's Carmen Suite, an arrangement of Bizet's original score, here complemented by Terry Davies and by superbly played live under the baton of Brett Morris.
Matthew Bourne doesn't do subtle, so everything in The Car Man is brash, from the vigorous ensemble dances that open the action and are obviously inspired by West Side Story, to the fateful and very graphic sex scene between Luca and a devouring Lana.
Dino's murder with repeated blows from a wrench is protracted, violent and very bloody; his return as a figment of Luca's imagination as he succumbs to drink-fuelled remorse, is terrifying.
THE ARTS DESK
At times dancers lounge, moving languidly, slow and low conveying the unbearable heat – but aren't averse to sweating it out in orgy scenes with explicit choreography seeing characters driven by misogyny and testosterone, bisexual desire and malice. It is overt, playful and sensual, from jiving hoedowns at the neon-lit diner through Bozier's domineering “Habanera” solo to a witty full-cast Toreador song starring an irreverent mime-artist scene.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.