★★★★★ | Autobahn, The King’s Head Theatre, London
Regarded as one of the most celebrated American playwrights, Neil LaBute has enthralled audiences all over the world with his layered characters, sharp dialogue and subtle social commentaries. Savio(u)r return to the King’s Head Theatre after the success of 2013’s Our Town with the London premiere of LaBute’s play, Autobahn, directed by Off-West End Award nominee Tim Sullivan.
This short-play cycle follows colourful, complicated people making their way across America’s highways and their stops, starts, and stalls along the way. The London cast includes Sharon Maughan (Holby City, The Bank Job, She’s Out of My League), Henry Everett (Michael Grandage’s (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Tom Slatter (Robot Overloards), and Zoe Swenson-Graham (Our Town).
This cycle of seven short pieces stretching over 2 hours 10 minutes (with an interval to catch your breath) consists of scenes of people in cars. The stark set is a disembodied half of a car with a background scene projected on the wall and the 4 actors take various roles in the vignettes. Some of the pieces are total or almost total monologues with little interchange between characters whereas others are sharply written well-performed two handers.
The concept of two people talking as they sit in a car might not fill you with excitement but the skill of the writing and the intensity of the dialogue soon drags you in. These are nasty stories at times with LaBute’s characters having only a thin veneer covering their insecurities, betrayals and crimes. Unfaithful wives, psychotic girlfriends, unrepentant addicts and willing abductees abound in the dark world that is depicted, yet at times the plays are also painfully funny.
The cast are excellent and really bring life to the disparate and often desperate characters. This is a really unique theatre experience. The last outing for a LaBute play (Bash Latterday Plays at The Old Red Lion) ended up transferring to the West End. Catch this stellar production while you can. It deserves a wide audience.
Autobahn runs until the 20th of September 2014
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.