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Subject: "The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000" Archived thread - Read only
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Lynette H

07-09-00, 04:59 PM (GMT)
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"The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000"
   Matthew Bourne indicated in his recent book that he did not want to open new shows in London, and that his work benefited from adjustment and polishing in repeated performance. The Car Man, AMPís latest production has toured the UK for the last few months, before its opening in London at the Old Vic, and so Bourne has had time to tighten up the production. The official press night is now 13th September: I saw the first preview performance.

The London audience adored it, and gave the dancers a standing ovation. Bourne seems to have found an audience for his own particular brand of musical dance theatre, and this production offers the usual mix of energy, lust and desperation. Iím sure this production will prove successful, but it didnít seem to me to have the ability, as previous AMP productions did, most notably Swan Lake, to touch a particular nerve and to suggest much more than the sum of its parts. In pure dance terms, it is less not as arresting or as memorable as some earlier AMP works.

With AMP , however, itís the concept as a whole which matters, and how well the whole package of theatre, music, design and dance is integrated. Bourne has taken the music, at one remove, from Carmen, but only vestiges of the original plot remain, now with the obligatory gender twist - hence the central character is the Car Man. The plot and setting in the American Mid West now bears more than a passing resemblance to the film The Postman Always Rings Twice - beautiful disaffected young wife urges her lover to murder her older husband, his boss. A shred of the original Carmen story is preserved in the character of Angelo, a Jose figure here who also falls for the charismatic outsider who creates havoc, and suffers the consequences.

Lez Brotherstonís set is as always, quite superb: allowing action on more than one level and remarkably flexible and versatile in becoming a garage, a diner, gaol, and club. The music is one ingredient I was less convinced about. It is based on Shchedrinís Carmen Suite, which has been subsequently revised and expanded by Terry Davies specially for this production. Snippets of recognisable Bizet surface at intervals, but the overall effect is rather thin: the fourteen musicians arenít enough to give the work the colour and expressiveness it needs, and the remorseless percussion is sometimes rowdy rather than exhilarating.

On the dance front Bourne seems happiest when choreographing for the men, and there are several group dances for the mechanics which pulsate with energy. The women have a less interesting time of it. Lana (Michela Meazza) remains one dimensional - she exists only to slither over men in various sexual encounters. Her husband Dino (Neil Penlington) is depicted as an insensitive slob: itís hard to care when he is killed.

Luca, the drifter who sets off this chain of events is danced by Alan Vincent. He certainly looks good in a tight white T shirt, and exudes a sense of menace. But I left feeling that there ought somehow to be more depth and complexity to the role. The production might use the Carmen music but its central role doesnít have the elemental force which that music suggests: Luca is never more than just a drifter with an eye for the bossís wife. The only character with depth and tragic stature is Angelo, seduced by Luca and neatly framed for murder by the adulterous couple. Will Kemp gives a very fine performance, moving from shy and hapless wimp to tormented avenger.

Bourneís strong theatrical sense is always in evidence, and the production moves at a brisk pace and never drags. The evocation of atmosphere is excellent, especially the sensation of oppressive heat. Itís a fun night out, but perhaps small town America just doesnít have the resonances that Bourneís other subjects had. Swan Lake had an appeal to lonely souls who longed for affection and the freedom that the Swan personified: The Car Man doesnít offer us characters to empathise with or care about in the same way.

Itís been some years since the Old Vic was used for dance productions, but it is destined to be AMPís permanent London base from now on. The sightlines are reasonable: the stage is not that large, and occasionally in group scenes a little more space would have been welcome. Itís a remarkably pretty theatre, and itís good to have as another dance venue in London.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000 Matthew Bourne 07-09-00 1
     RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000 Lynette H 08-09-00 2
         RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000 Anneliese 11-09-00 3
             RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000 alison 11-09-00 4

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Matthew Bourne

07-09-00, 11:24 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000"
In response to message #0
   Dear Lynette,
Thanks for your (mostly) nice comments about THE CAR MAN ...My only question is , should you really be reviewing a show on its first preview?? Yours M.B.

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Lynette H

08-09-00, 01:44 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000"
In response to message #1
   When I bought the ticket, some time back, there was no indication that this was a preview performance. I only found out that the opening date was now the 13th last week sometime.

I must say the production didnít *look* like a preview - it was obviously very well rehearsed and very crisply and professionally presented . (I wish the opening night of Irek & Co at Sadlers Wells the following night had been as well prepared and presented !).

Unfortunately Iíll be away on the 13th, and I thought Iíd record my impressions as an ordinary member of the ticket-buying public.

The audience reaction seemed very favourable: Iím sure this will be another success for AMP.

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11-09-00, 10:53 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000"
In response to message #2
   What constitues a "preview" anyway? If (as seems to be implied) it's not ready for public consumption, why are tickets sold? And on a slightly different note, as the Car Man has been touring for months anyway what's the big deal? (not trying to be "off", just genuinely interested in what the point is here!)

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11-09-00, 12:57 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: The Car Man, AMP, Old Vic, 4/9/2000"
In response to message #3
   There was a time when preview tickets in the West End were sold at lower prices than non-preview ones, which made it nice and clear, although I'm not sure whether that is still done. I think the main point of a preview (and there are a few plays currently touring the regions which will have previews in the West End as well) is to see how the production works in a given theatre - is the stage the same size, will the sightlines be all right, do things need physically changing, is it coming over to the audience properly and do any last-minute tweaks need to be made? - all the sort of things that you can only really do in live performance rather than rehearsal, before you allow the critics in. After all, for a long-term West End season you need to get everything fully prepared, as negative reviews relating to remediable problems could have a very adverse effect on the life of a production. (And I do think, given the above, that preview prices should continue to be a bit lower!).

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