Review: Motor Show, LIFT Festival

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In a dusty forgotten part of Greenwich, set against the backdrop of Canary Wharf and the financial district, Motor Show is being driven for a sold-out audience. A hybrid of performer/car dance, this somewhat seductive headphone performance from the creators of last year’s hit Electric Hotel leaves a tingle down the spine and an unnerving desire to look behind you as you walk down the street at night. Presented as part of London International Festival of Theatre and The Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, directors Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg offer their audience an intimately vast look into a colliding narrative where young people fall in and out of love, a man mourns the loss of his daughter, and where the sinister takes flight in the imagination. Motor Show doesn’t so much as tease you into submission as drive you into desire.

There are so many layers and elements to Motor Show that it can be hard to extract them from memory. We witness a narrative that is spread out across multiple spaces in the wasteland before us. A man dances in the hue of a lamplight whilst three identical lovers toy with each other in and out of car windows and boots. A young Chinese girl rebukes her father, who appears to be a diplomat, whilst the figure of a deer dressed as Santa Claus haunts the background. These images seemingly build upon each other before dissolving into the night. All of this is heard, whispered and played through the headphones provided so that whilst the space in front of us is a vast expanse of wasteland, we are drawn instantly into the cars and action. Every footstep, creak of a car door or whispered “I love you” is timed to perfection between the sound in our ears and the performers’ movement. The effect is quite mesmersing, but disorientating too. The cars from the real road running beside the performance space merge into the city sounds in our ears and there is many a moment when the audience are thrown off by the performance sound behind us.

Motor Show has something distinctly Tarantino-esque and cinematic in its presentation. Figures emerge from cars, attack others in slow motion, or dance seductively –  like a reimagining of Kill Bill or Donnie Darko. This is greatly aided by the phenomenal sound and music design by Ben and Max Ringham, and the complex but perfect lighting of Natasha Chivers which sees extra cars following the performers, lit from headlights or phone boxes. It’s imaginative, playful and gritty.

It’s not always clear what is taking place, but this only adds to the mysterious joy of Motor Show. Performers clad in luminous lycra and headdresses emerge from a limousine and dance before disappearing again, while later a caravan with a deer sitting in the window is lit from afar. Requardt and Rosenberg’s direction never falters for a instant, blending the mysterious and surreal with intimate movements and sounds from the soundscape. It’s quirky for sure, and whilst it doesn’t quite hold as much narrative as previous work Electric Hotel, it offers a rich theatrical experience. The use of cars as a theatrical device is extremely well done, at times their joy-riding spins sets off the dust in the air, or blinds the audience with headlights that creep towards us. It’s a chilling experience, and not just because it’s outside performance.