Car at the Pleasance, London

Note: The follow review dates from Car's run at the 1999 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It transfers from the Pleasance Edinburgh to the Pleasance London on 28 September and runs to 16 October 1999.

There is a lad in Car who is a master of the yearning poetics of the automobile. He can hymn off all the details, all the things you never wanted to know about a Ferrari. But by the end he is longing to stop, for just one minute, thinking about cars. The longing to stop on the part of the four lads in this cast, to step out of their lives, is the driving force running through this fine piece of contemporary theatre.

Jason, Marky, Nick and Tim have stolen a car. It is what they do. But this time the victim, the solid, hard-working citizen who owns the car, chases them, is perhaps injured and the reality of their lives starts to overwhelm them. They think they are mates, but as one of them says, it is not so: they just steal cars together.

Deftly the writer, Chris O Connell, builds up for each of them a complicated recognisable character with real depth and humanity. In counterpoint there is Robert, the probation officer, trying to make sense of a world he knows well but can never be part of and Gary, the owner of the car, shaken, crying out for the focus of attention to be entirely on him. Robert arranges mediation and in a powerful confrontation the interactions between the lad who drove the car away and the victim unfold surprisingly but convincingly.

The performances fizz with energy. All of the cast are excellent but Lee Colley as Jason takes the breath away with the manic diatribes of a lost soul who can see what he wants, just, forever, out of reach. Gary Cargill as Marky, the tough, the man who is not allowed near his wife and children, also achieves moments which are deeply poignant.

O Connell weaves his multi-stranded plot with a filmic sensibility and dynamic, and the direction is well-nigh immaculate. It is a roller-coaster of a play, with moments of black comedy and pathos. Well worth a visit.

Leslie Hills