Autobahn at The King’s Head
The King’s Head Theatre is another boxed-in, stuffy one – the perfect accompaniment to the concentrated intimacy of Neil LaBute’s Autobahn. Set entirely within the confined privacy of a car’s two front seats, the play presents a unique look into the lives of America’s contemporary, cosmopolitan, conceited and compassionate citizens.
Very simply executed, four incredibly talented actors chop and change nationality, age, class and career to provide a colorful and satisfying slice of American life. Issues dealt with vary from divorce, drugs, adultery, parenthood and relationships – from the monumental to the ordinary – providing a neutral, broad range of characters that give the play a realistic believability. The complete lack of movement draws attention to the art of silence, stillness and speech, creating the intensity that is so carefully and expertly handled. The effect is a bit like a 21st century time capsule. The characters are electric – live wire – creating an unnerving sense of explosive erraticism.
LaBute has created a kind of inverted drama here, where emotions aren’t so much projected as squeezed out and released. In the confined “bubbles of glass and steel”, people are protected from external interference whilst guaranteed an attentive companion, which makes for very interesting results. With a backdrop of the great American road to throw such idiosyncrasies into sharp relief, the peculiar mannerisms and lifestyles of contemporary citizens are glorified, becoming something beautiful in the concentrated space of not only the car but the theatre itself – there’s something marvellous in sharing such a private and intimate experience with a room of complete strangers, particularly with the knowledge that everyone is similarly delighted by American culture.
Autobahn is heated, intense, and indulgently American. The cutting, dissecting structure is a theme that pervades artistic representations of modern, urban environments, where again LaBute has rebuked convention by inverting this urbanisation: he’s taken it to the road, and it makes for a captivatingly wild adventure.
Autobahn is on at the King’s Head Theatre until 20th September 2014, for further information or to book visit here.