Well we had an absolute hoot at the Kings Head Theatre as we combined our two favourite things; drinking wine and enjoying great theatre… And great it certainly was! We rounded up a few of our nicest #LDNTheatreBloggers and headed for a group outing to see Neil Labute’s Autobahn, presented by the ever wonderful Savio(u)r Theatre Company.
Having seen a fair bit of Savio(u)r’s past work, it is clear to see their dedication in bringing texts by American playwrights to UK audiences and Autobahn is no exception. Labute’s piece, complied of 7 short duologues set in a car, goes about inviting the audience into a cultural slice of the USA, a country where owning a car is pretty crucial. Whilst in the UK, which stretches just over 830 miles, we may not be accustomed to driving the great open road for days on end, we can definitely comprehend the claustrophobic “are we there yet” vibe of the show.
The undisputed best element to this rather intimate production is the stellar cast. It is fantastic to see star in the making, Zoë Swenson Graham (also Artistic Director of Savio(u)r) back on stage where, let’s face it, she belongs. Swenson-Graham delivers a full acting range as she plays attention seeking teen in opening short, Funny, an off the chart stalker/basket case in Bench Seat and, most disturbingly, a naïve teenage girl in Road Trip.
Sharon Maughan (of Nescafe and Holby City fame) is an absolute treat in this production and finally gets her chance to wow the audience in Merge, where she plays a comically adulterous wife. Whilst Merge may be the jewel in Maughan’s crown, she certainly gets the chance to display an array of performance styles and is hauntingly upbeat as the show draws to a close with Autobahn.
Lesser known Tom Slatter was also given his chance to shine, especially opposite Swenson-Graham in Bench Seat as he tried to remain cool and calm in the presence of a potential Bunny Boiler. His second venture in Long Division also showed off his comic ability, but the piece was just not that engaging for me (bound to happen when there are 7 different short stories on offer.)
Perhaps my favourite performance of the evening came from Henry Everett (Michael Grandage Company) as he tackled the role of a short tempered but sickly sweet paedophile in Road Trip with full throttle. Everett managed to captivate the audience from start to finish in this short, a testimony to his abilities and Tim Sullivan’s careful direction. The simple twist of two fingers through a young girls hair was enough to turn everybody’s stomach. Ack!
As I mentioned, Autobahn is made up from 7 different short stories and you would probably be a fool to expect to love all of them. For me particular, I was not too keen on Long Division and All Apologies, finding them a tad throwaway. I also am not too keen on Autobahn as the ending piece, instead finding that Road Trip packed a better punch. That said there really is something for everyone in the 7 pieces which range from comic to heartfelt to down right dark and disturbing. For this the cast and creative team need to be congratulated.
The only real niggling issue for me here was the stagnant set. I loved the use of an actual car bonnet on stage, which did very well to establish the confined space in which the characters existed however I was not so keen on the use of still projection, instead longing for a bit of movement in the background. The Autobahn is for moving, after all.
All in all this is a well executed piece of American Theatre that offers the audience a real cultural insight into life on the open road of the United States. The brilliant cast and subtle but poignant direction make Autobahn a must see.
Autobahn runs at the Kings Head Theatre until 20th September. Click here for tickets.
Exclusive Q&A With Savio(u)r
Us lovely #LDNTheatreBloggers caught up with Savio(u)r after the show. Watch our exclusive Q&A with Director Tim Sullivan and Artistic Director stroke leading lady, Zoë Swenson Graham.