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Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man

Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Never mind Swan Lake with its squadrons of macho swans – Matthew Bourne’s film noir take on Bizet’s superheated opera is the one for me. His most satisfyingly realised mash-up to date, The Car Man fizzes with sleazy energy from the get-go, with an ensemble of grease monkeys stamping and sliding through a sub-Jerome Robbins sequence like white trash on heat. When a stranger slinks into the town of Harmony (population: 375) you know there may be trouble ahead.

Bristling with references to movies and plays (even Shakespeare gets a look-in with a very funny variation on Hamlet’s Claudius-baiting players), this is one of Bourne’s most mature works, both in execution and intent.

With a fresh new cast, including the Rita Moreno-like Zizi Strallen as the faithless femme fatale, Lana, and Chris Trenfield dancing his pants off as bad boy Luca (in advance of the anticipated arrival of Marcelo Gomes), it retains the spirit of the original 2000 production, even if it now seems a little cleaned up.

I missed the down and dirty sexuality of Michela Meazza’s original Lana, but there is still much to lust after in the hilarious shower scene (including some sneaky full frontals) and the orgy which demonstrates that girls in underwear are far sexier than if they were bare breasted.

The focus has shifted slightly and Liam Mower and Kate Lyons are very touching as the young couple caught up in the murderous antics of the two principals. Their final duet is a fine example of Bourne’s narrative choreography as lost innocence generates disappointment and horror.

Slick, sexy and very bloody, it is indelibly stamped with the Bourne identity.

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Verdict
Prosper Merimee, James M Cain and Bizet collide at the crossroads of sex, violence and retribution in Matthew Bourne's most cinematic ballet
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