The Car Man has all the lust, revenge and violence you’d expect from its opera origins – the dance thriller certainly went down well as it received a rapturous standing ovation at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Director Matthew Bourne loosely reimagined Bizet’s opera Carmen, and brought the melodrama, doomed love and bloodshed to small mid-Western town America in the 1960s.
A stranger rolls into town and catches the eye of Lana, wife of local businessman Dino, their lust for one another sets off a chain of events that lead to tragic consequences.
There’s a hint of West Side Story in the opening numbers, with the Italian American community of Harmony, population 375, dancing in energetic and carefree pairs.
A group of grime-smeared young men work in a garage, and their moves in the workshop reflect the physicality of their jobs and at times become mechanical to imitate the machines they work with.
Stunning choreography combined with the extremely athletic and sensual dance moves meant the audience were mesmerised from the start.
The energy of the cast is frenetic and contagious – these are young men and women living with wild abandon in the confines of their small town, drinking and hooking up.
The original subtitle to the production was An Auto-Erotic Thriller and while the new one Bizet’s Carmen Re-Imagined might be more descriptive, at least the first prepared for the raw sexuality acted out on stage.
In the sultry, sapping heat of the mid-Western summer, the stage is bathed in hot red light as passions spin out of control – be warned, this ballet is graphic.
The Car Man has often been described as homoerotic, but its homoeroticism is gleefully part of its general eroticism, hetero and gay couples copulate on stage in a seething mass of sexuality.
After this fateful night the stranger, Luca, and Lana begin a passionate affair and after discovery by her husband make a run for it, betraying an innocent friend.
The second act picks the story up six months later as the repercussions of the Luca and Lana’s actions are felt by the whole community – and one other couple in particular.
Ballet is often seen as a niche art form but with dancing this expressive, telling a tale of lust, murder, revenge and guilt, the themes are so well known that you find yourself mentally adding in dialogue to the performance.
I cannot recommend this performance enough – Matthew Bourne is probably the UK’s most popular choreographer and director, with his innovative interpretation of Swan Lake winning numerous awards.
Do not miss the chance to see one of his productions live – The Car Man runs until Saturday April 25 in Wimbledon, to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/wimbledon