Carmen rocks and rolls

The Car ManThe Car Man
The Car Man
The Car Man, The Lowry, SalfordUntil May 30

When it comes to Matthew Bourne’s ‘auto-erotic’ dance thriller you clearly cannot get enough of a good thing.

And that goes for its originator as much as anyone.

There he was on opening night in Salford lapping up the entertainment, besides an Italian meal beforehand.

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It may be 15 years since he first staged this wildly-creative piece of dance theatre but in that time it’s pretty well set the standard besides establishing Bourne’s unique vocabulary of stage movement and story telling.

No wonder it’s greeted back here with an audience enthusiasm usually reserved for pop music royalty.

The story, of lust, passion, revenge and murder, is set in the remote American highway town of Harmony, where the arrival of a dark stranger leads to anything but...

On opening night Jonny Ollivier dances this role with all the desired blunt machismo – and not a little of the look of a Don Draper – while Zizi Strallen, as his illicit love interest, is sharply snake-hipped.

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As the younger couple caught up in this sexual storm Liam Mower and Kate Lyons are touchingly outstanding in a series of love duets that vividly suggest vulnerability and ultimate betrayal.

These are dancers who clearly relish the challenge of acting out strong characterisations.

The Car Man may be sub-titled ‘Bizet’s Carmen re-imagined’ but in its storyline and 60s styling it owes as much to Bourne’s fascination with cinema, not least in the way in which he sometimes creates slow motion passages of dance, in tune with the original’s habanera music.

Naturally any production that brazenly plunders Bizet’s spine-tingling score already has much to recommend it, but Terry Davies’s orchestrations and musical effects add so much more to the sound mix – and that includes a xylophone line dance!

And with a typically detailed and eye-catching set design from Lez Brotherston why risk waiting another eight years for the next tour revival?

David Upton

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