The Car Man

It's almost heresy to say so, but I've never got on all that well with Bizet's famous opera Carmen. Possibly I've just never seen a good production: but also most productions use the recitatives which were added after the original production, which had spoken sections between the numbers, so that it was more like a musical. Indeed it works well as a musical - Carmen Jones, filmed in 1954 (and, as it happens, being mounted at the Royal Festival Hall this summer).

The story has been made into a ballet in the past (1967), with music by adapted from the Bizet score by Shchedrin (who cheekily played only the accompaniment to the Toreador's Song, leaving the audience to imagine the well-known melody).

More recently, in 2000, Matthew Bourne adapted the story to a garage-diner in 1960s America under the title The Car Man, and this is currently being revived at Sadlers Wells. It uses the Schedrin score, plus more of the music from Carmen (and some from L'Arlesienne) arranged by Terry Davies.

Wisely, Bourne didn't just make another version of the same story, but instead created a scenario which has some elements of the original - and also a touch of The Postman Always Rings Twice: drifter Luca (Alan Vincent) is hired as help at a garage/diner run by ugly fool Dino (Scott Ambler) who has a beautiful, sexy and frustrated wife, Lana (Michela Meazza). As in Postman, Dino finishes up dead (though unlike in the novel it's not premeditated). Lana and Luca hightail it to the City, leaving dim-witted mechanic Angelo (Sam Archer) to take the blame. He escapes, and when Luca and Lana return there is a confrontation.

The choreography, though occasionally a little repetitive, is lively and effective, and together with the excellent staging creates the feel of the small Italian community in a scruffy town, and the tensions of its inhabitants. The one major jarring note is in Lana and Luca's visit to a beatnik cabaret bar in the city, which doesn't come off - the beatniks are unconvincing and spoil the realism of the rest of the production. (And beatniks were much better satirized in the film Funny Face).

Altogether, though, a powerful and well danced production right up to the shock ending.

Posted: Wed - July 18, 2007 at 09:11 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM