Autobahn is Neil Labute’s short–play cycle capturing moments in the lives of people in cars. Consisting of seven short plays and four actors playing many different parts, Autobahn runs the gambit between funny, sad and horrifying. The pieces alternate between a long monologue from one character with purely reactions from the other to a back and forth dialogue. Sometimes this works masterfully, such as in the first piece, funny, when the Older Woman (Sharon Maughan) never utters a word, but her pained looks and stoic coffee drinking tell her story perfectly clearly. Other times, the banter of two scene partners is necessary to stop the piece from feeling tediously repetitious.
The two actresses particularly shine in Autobahn – Zoë Swenson-Graham and Maughan steal each of the scenes they are in and when together, work perfectly in tune to create a compelling piece. Swenson-Graham completely reinvents her characters each new play. She is assisted by her scene partners’ more reserved performances. Her large emotions take up the entire space and having an equally loud partner would have made the scene cluttered and overbearing. Similarly, the simplicity of the set also works to not overwhelm the emotions on the stage. A great design of a half car works to set the scene and create intimacy in a familiar setting.
Despite some genuinely good scenes, however, the format and length of the production is at time tedious and too long. Especially in a scene where only one of the characters speaks, if the performance is not compelling enough, the scene easily sinks into a repetitious and ultimately uninteresting lull. Ultimately, while there are some low points, Autobahn is an entertaining and insightful look at relationships between people safe inside their boxes of glass and steel.
- By Neil LaBute
- Directed by Tim Sullivan, Produced by Savio(u)r
- Cast includes: Henry Everett, Sharon Maughan, Tom Slatter, and Zoë Swenson-Graham
- Kings Head Theatre, London
- Until 20th September 2014
- Time: 19.15 (Running time: 2hrs 10 mins)
- Becca Kaplan
- 29 August 2014