Ginger Hibiscus | Autobahn Review
London theatre West End News reviews
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at the Kings Head Theatre, Islington

In the US, there’s an incredible 48,000 miles of, “freeway,” or motorway, with some statistics claiming that the average driver logs over 13,000 miles each year, or 37 miles every day. With so much time spent on the road, those little steel bubbles encapsulate a multitude of moments in the occupants’ lives, carrying them on their journey to nowhere. Moments of magic. Moments of love. Moments of despair. Moments of sincerity. Moments of humour. Each bubble is unique and strangely fragile, and no matter how apparently mundane, each carries its own story.

Autobahn gives us a glimpse into seven of those bubbles. Amongst them, we cringe as a teenage boy attempts to break up with his emotionally unstable girlfriend; we laugh as a woman being collected from rehab announces she can’t wait to pick up some junk; we roll our eyes as a woman admits (of sorts) to having an affair at a work conference, and we squirm uncomfortably as a paedophile carries his unknowing victim across the continent. Seven short plays comprising one show, with one setting: a car.

The car quite literally takes centre stage, a striking image that’s instantly recognisable (and yes, there is actually a car). As the thread linking the stories, it’s fabulous having such visually striking scenery; simple, uncomplicated yet powerful, and perfectly fitting. Brief musical intermissions, subtle costume changes, and changing projected backdrop images prevented the stories from melding into one, but the projections could have been taken further. The images could be replaced with video journeys, like you would see out of the window of a car driving along the freeway, injecting some movement and into an otherwise very static production.

In equal parts funny, dark and bewildering, the universally strong acting performances carry it along, as it dips in and out of the lives of ordinary, yet interesting characters.

By setting the show in a car and therefore limiting the physical movement of the characters, the cast are tasked with a real challenge in maintaining audience attention. But they absolutely shatter this challenge with phenomenally engaging performances; long soliloquys are timed to perfection, particularly from the incredibly memorable Zoe Swenson-Graham, a beautiful chameleon who is remarkably talented at becoming her four (yes, four) different characters. The cast is completed by Sharon Maughan, Tom Slater and Henry Everett, all outstanding in their respective roles, with a particular mention of Everett’s hideously sinister paedophile, which he plays with a chilling imperiousness that is enough to make anyone shuffle in their seat.

Despite the car linking them, for me, the mini-stories are just a little too disparate. Their common strand is stretched just beyond breaking point, meaning it doesn’t quite hang together as a show in its own right. The result; it feels like seven separate plays that end just as we’re on the cusp of caring about the characters. Whilst the concept is undoubtedly interesting, taking a lens to a stream of cars, I feel there’s something that doesn’t quite connect with a British audience; in very general terms, cars are just less culturally significant here than in the US.

Any clever social critique is lost in translation to the UK stage, and the car as a vehicle for the stories doesn’t quite resonate here. That said, Autobahn is an unusual play. In equal parts funny, dark and bewildering, the universally strong acting performances carry it along, as it dips in and out of the lives of ordinary, yet interesting characters. It’s engaging, it explores a kaleidoscope of human emotion, and it will definitely make you laugh.

Autobahn is written by Neil LaBute and directed by Tim Sullivan, with design from Neil Gordon, lighting, sound and projection from Paul O’Shaughnessy and casting by Lucy Casson. The show is playing at The Kings Head Theatre, Islington, until 20th September.

For tickets and information, please see:

I was fortunate enough to attend this event with a lovely group of #LDNTheatreBloggers, and would like to thank for arranging the evening.

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.

Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here