|Zoe Swenson-Graham and Sharon Maughan|
Sip your coffee because you’re in for a ride in Neil LaBute’s Autobahn. Savio(u)r Theatre’s Tim Sullivan has brought the ‘American play’ to the British fringe stage: the King’s Head Theatre in Angel. Witness no less than fourteen unique characters in seven playlets conveying the darker and macabre side of humanity in Autobahn, (which translates as federal motorway in German).
The set is minimal: with only a used American car with video projections to give a sense that these zany, ostentatious, menacing, and innocent people are on the road or parked up. With such small-scale stage, one would think that this puts the play in a disadvantage but in actual fact, this is where the coffee comes in and unveils the gold: the value of dialogue, language and words.
Autobahn is an unadulterated version of everyday life – left as it is – which leaps from hope to dread trapped inside a car. Who hasn’t experienced being dumped? Who hasn’t wanted to ‘make out’ in one? Who hasn’t had a massive argument within such confines? In this case, it involves Henry Everett’s character calling his wife a c***, so – maybe – not everyone can sympathise.
What about the ordeal of supporting your friend who’s locked out of his home and wants to grab his ‘stuff’? ‘One must take heed!’ hails Tom Slatter behind the steering wheel. Or what about your girlfriend, Sharon Maughan, sugarcoating the truth and openly admitting – in little words – that she took part in an orgy?
The most unsettling, unrelentingly suspense-fueled scene is of a schoolteacher; a closet paedophile. Throughout the show, the audience laugh and even cry at moments of the poignant American humour, yet it’s in this vignette that the audience listen intently and desperately wants to know what will happen next. This is subtly drawn to a close when he requests to touch her hair as he drives, and she sleeps. That’s it –it’s game over.
The cast was brisk and sharp in transforming into their new personas by donning a different blouse, hat, or hairstyle. The effective 80s classic rock music softened and bolstered the sense of nostalgia; the good life before the ominous conclusion.
Swenson-Graham in her first monologue was focused and poised for action. She was noticeably ecstatic in the ‘making-out’ scene and seemed like she was right at home. Slatter was a bit nervous at first, but it was at his monologue where he went all guns blazing.
Everett showed his sport and expertise in the paedophile scene; unreservedly suave and cool under pressure, and although haphazard in identifying the men his girlfriend ‘screwed’, he executed good improvisations.
Regrettably, Maughan was not seen enough on the stage. Oozing with potential and remembered for being the girlfriend who left the door ajar and found naked on the floor, the audience, and I, would have liked to see more of her in a dominate role.
Admittedly, I have not read (nor had heard of) the work of LaBute before viewing the show however, after patiently taking in the punch lines, the jokes and the ramblings of this unique script, one could tell that LaBute is an extraordinary writer that doesn’t require the extra fluff.
Sullivan and Zoe Swenson-Graham, cast member and artistic director of Savio(u)r, worked at great length to ensure that no compromises were made and characters were depicting in a way that audience could empathise with.
For tickets and information, please see: kingsheadtheatre.com/autobahn
Courtesy to #LDNTheatreBloggers, and officialtheatre.com for arranging the evening.