The Car Man – Review


Matthew Bourne’s sizzling production of The Car Man sent temperatures soaring at its opening in High Wycombe last night.

Brows were mopped and a few elderly ladies almost swooned in the Wycombe Swan auditorium as Bourne’s steamy ballet, using Bizet’s scintillating Carmen score, exposed a torrid story of sex, murder, rape and revenge.

Just five minutes into the story is its infamous shower scene, with a moment of titillation for those in the stalls, and it isn’t long before a lust-fuelled orgy takes place with bodies writhing everywhere.


Before we even get cracking the male cast, their muscular frames squeezed into tight, dirty, vests, are flexing their pecs around the set.

We’re in a corner of the Italian/ American community of Harmony, USA, population 375. There’s a garage with more grease monkeys than necessary and a diner selling “wet fries” (I had to look that one up). Both businesses are owned by an obnoxious drunk called Dino who regularly abuses his bored and beautiful wife Lana.

Into town strides the handsome stranger, a drifter called Luca, who sets about providing his own five-star service to both the garage owner’s wife and Angelo, a hired help (we didn’t see that one coming).

Passions are brought to a head in a violent outburst that sees one man accused of murder and another on the lam.

Jonny Ollivier made a commanding Luca on opening night (Christopher Trenfield shares the role with him).


He oozes machismo and testosterone as he circles the wayward Lana (Zizi Strallen – yes, another talent from the Strallen family).

The pair smoulder as Terry Davies‘ arousing adaptation of Carmen whips everyone into a frenzy.

Amid the rampant sexuality is the beginnings of a rather sweet love story beautifully expressed in a duet by Angelo (Dominic North – so superb as Edward Scissorhands) and Lana’s innocent young sister Rita (Katy Lowenhoff).

But it isn’t long before the relationships become tangled as the opportunist drifter hands out his favours. The dancing is bold, aggressive and immensely powerful.

The Car Man is a story that unfolds like a classic 1950s B movie. But it starts off a little too frantically with too much happening on stage at the same time (and dancers suffering for the excess).

Ollivier, with the dark swarthy good looks of a Hollywood leading man, burns up the stage both dancing, shadow boxing and throwing a punch.

He makes a less credible drunk when, in the second act, he and Lana hit a nightclub and he squanders the last of their cash.

But moments later he’s dancing with a bloody murder victim whose brains appear to be falling out of the back of his skull (great make-up).

There’s less wit and a lot more violence in The Car Man compared to some of Bourne’s other productions but it makes for a highly-charged erotic adventure that leads to an inevitable and savage outcome.

Tremendous, high octane, performances from the entire company but particularly Jonny Ollivier.

The Car Man is at Wycombe Swan until Saturday.

Review Rating
  • The Car Man


Matthew Bourne’s revival of The Car Man is hot, hot, hot. It burnt up the stage at Wycombe Swan during last night’s opening in a story of sex and violence adapted from Bizet’s Carmen.

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