Review: Car Man, Festival Theatre

It was hot, hot, hot, baby, as Bruno Tonioli of Strictly Come Dancing Fame might have said and boy did the largely female Festival Theatre crowd lap it up.
Car man at the Festival Theatre. Picture: CompCar man at the Festival Theatre. Picture: Comp
Car man at the Festival Theatre. Picture: Comp

* * * * * *

Choreographer/director Matthew Bourne has built a reputation for edgy sensuality and this revival of his original 2001 production does not fail to deliver.

Based loosely on Bizet’s Carmen and set around a roadhouse in an oppressive small Mid-West American town in the early 60s, the mechanics and their molls have nothing with which to amuse themselves but each other and what starts out as post-adolescent high-jinks darkens as the tragic plot develops.

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This is a no-holds-barred show, with full male nudity and simulated homo and heterosexual sex, but the beauty and sensuality of the execution means at no point does any of it feel gratuitous or in any way shocking.

A combination of the pace of action, brilliantly directed secondary movements and a dusty and steamy set, means the choking heat of an American dustbowl summer is almost tangible even from the comfort of a Scottish theatre.

Sex and heat are the hallmarks of a performance which fizzes with sexual tension; the precision is pinpoint, with bodies locking and unlocking throughout complex routines with breath-taking accuracy.

As might be expected from the 56th outing of an expertly choreographed performance with leading dancers, the athleticism and stamina is Olympic standard from dancers on stage for over two hours. The high-energy opening sequences lasting a quarter of an hour are literally breathtaking, but you wouldn’t know it.

Jonny Ollivier as the morals-free drifter Luca the drifter and Zizi Strallen, as the wife of the roadhouse owner he seduces, make for a stunning couple who are suitably dominant throughout. Liam Mower is excellent as Angelo, the gay gofer who is also seduced by Luca and then framed for murder.

It could never be accused of being a feel-good story, but plenty of people went home very happy indeed and it’s not often the Festival Theatre resounds to such roars of approval as those which greeted the final curtain last night.

Until Saturday, June 13