Considering I begrudgingly spend an unhealthy amount of time in cars and traffic jams, I was excited to spend several hours of my Thursday evening watching a captivating show about our lives inside the metal boxes. Savio(u)r Theatre Company have brought Neil LaBute’s Autobahn to the UK audience with a unique punch that will leave you thinking beyond the last word.
Autobahn presents a series of short plays centred around the conversations (some very one-way) of intriguing people travelling across America’s highways. We have the parents and children, couples, friends and in one haunting case the teacher and pupil; all taking their different journeys and slowly revealing a dark insight into their complicated lives.
The first thing I must commend is the cast of this show. They individually offer a very unique quality to the play and to each character they portray. I was blown away by the talent on offer here but he standout performer in my eyes was Savio(u)r Theatre’s own artistic director Zoë Swenson-Graham. She seamlessly transformed from the sassy, confident recovering drug addict to the ditzy, thoughtlessly rash girlfriend in the space of a few minutes bringing both characters to life in a matter of words. I was immediately drawn to her performances in particular as they had stunning contrasts which she pulled off superbly.
The play itself is lingering and chilling with perfectly-timed wit and a humorous undertone that leaves you questioning whether your laugh was at all appropriate. I enjoyed how words and lexus were explored through each story, despite the surprise of discovering some haunting undertones. Each scene highlights a different taboo, some mild and some shocking, but they all leave you guessing until the last moments. Annoyingly when the penny drops and you are eager to continue exploring the characters, the scene is over but in a way this is a stark reminder of how private lives are never fully exposed. As Zoë later explained in the Q & A session, she believes this crazy behaviour happens more often than we think and the play focusses on how shockingly common these car conversations are.
It was great to speak to Zoë and director Tim Sullivan after the show and hear of their exciting plans for Savio(u)r Theatre Company. They have gone from strength to strength since they brought Our Town across the pond and are now looking to take English plays back to the States.
Many thanks to Rebecca Felgate and Official Theatre for organising the visit and a very enjoyable evening seeing such a distinctive American play.
Autobahn is running until 20th September at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington.