Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Matthew Bourne's the Car Man; Ardani 25 Dance Gala

Magazine article The Spectator

Dance: Matthew Bourne's the Car Man; Ardani 25 Dance Gala

Article excerpt

Matthew Bourne's The Car Man

Sadler's Wells, until 9 August

Ardani 25 Dance Gala

London Coliseum

Hot, languorous, sizzling... I was thinking what an ideal show Matthew Bourne's noir comedy is to watch on a summer's evening in T-shirt and shorts as you sip a cold beer in a plastic cup and feel all toasty while the garage mechanics are bumping and grinding away at Dino's Diner. Then the rain started chucking it down outside, the temperature fell, and I found myself ruminating on how a dance show feels different if you've just been watching it, rather than feeling it in your skin and body.

The great thing about Bourne's choreographic style is that it feels like something you might have done yourself during some summer in your life. It is not the kind of dance that is way beyond your pay grade, like some of the dancing by the ballet superstars in the Ardani gala at the weekend.

But while The Car Man is a show to quaff with enjoyment at the time, it doesn't have a very long finish in the mind. This is unlike several of Bourne's other productions. Partly that's because he is trying to pull off something like a sex farce in the first half, and then a film noir thriller in the second. If you don't ask the two parts to hang together, it's fine.

Having supped full on danced sex-simulations since the raunchy 1980s, I concede I'm probably more quickly jaded by the insistent copulation motif in The Car Man 's Act 1 ensembles, since there are not 69 variants, whatever they say. It's from the front, from the back, sideways or upside down, basically. And if the music's tempo doesn't allow for the normal need to start in first gear, followed by an accelerando and a post-coital pause while everyone considers whether to share a cigarette or to make a complaint, then you can feel as if you're witnessing a colony of rabbits rather than people.

Most spectators, however, haven't had the exposure I have and the audience went wild, and so perhaps will you. Subtitled 'Bizet's Carmen Re-Imagined', it is an ingenious thing. Bourne, who has attentive ears, took the percussive, stress-filled Rodion Shchedrin ballet-suite, which is of itself an ideal garage soundtrack, and cooked it up with the garage film noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice . The sexually liberated tobacco queen is reborn as the amoral loner who strides into Lana's comatose trailer-trash marriage to arouse the demons of sexual appetite and turn her into a mythic murderer.

As you would expect, Bourne's devilish lothario doesn't confine himself to ladies, and this allows for the melodramatic twist in which the crime is pinned on an innocent, allowing a different hero to take centre stage. …

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