Autobahn

Theatre, Fringe
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Neil LaBute's excellently eerie and often funny short play cycle arrives in London for the first time.

Sometimes eerie, at others funny, Neil LaBute’s ‘Autobahn’ is a toe-dip into an entire generation’s worth of struggles that unravels along the highways of America.

Each of the seven vignettes that make up the short play cycle features two characters sitting in the front seats of a car. In several cases, only one person speaks but with this excellent cast of four – Sharon Maughan, Henry Everett, Zoë Swenson-Graham and Tom Slatter – the silences are as telling as the words.

LaBute introduces us to, among others, two arguing lovers, a mother and daughter on a road trip and a sinister teacher and his student taking a journey together. Questions surrounding the power of language to hurt or heal permeate the script, and it is arresting how all the characters are driven by an urge to confess. When confined to an intimate space that offers no opportunity for escape, even the most self-absorbed of LaBute’s creations are forced to face their own demons.

The speedy on-stage costume changes in Tim Sullivan’s production, such as putting on a different jacket to signify an actor slipping into a new role, showcase the versatility of the cast, but LaBute’s poignant script always steers the show.

Given the sparing use of dialogue it would be easy to underestimate ‘Autobahn’. But that would be a mistake: there’s a whole world of meaning that lurks beneath LaBute’s carefully chosen words.

By: Christina Wu

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