The Car Man

Exposed meets Zizi Strallen, the leading lady in Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man.

Loosely based on George Bizet’s popular opera Carmen, The Car Man is an internationally acclaimed dance thriller by choreographer Matthew Bourne. The Car Man tells the story of a greasy garage-diner in 1960s America, where the dreams and passions of a small town are shattered by the arrival of a handsome stranger. Fuelled by heat and desire, the inhabitants are driven into an unstoppable spiral of greed, lust, betrayal and revenge. Emily Beaumont had a chat with Zizi Strallen, who is playing lead character Lana in The Car Man to hear all about the show.

Hi Zizi, tell us a bit about the show you’re currently involved in, The Car Man?

The Car Man is a truly fantastic play, which centres on an Italian-American community in a fictional town called Harmony. My character Lana is married to garage owner called Dino, and their marriage isn’t the happiest. Things go a bit crazy when a wanderer called Luca comes to the town and starts working in the garage. He’s very good-looking, very mysterious and has an affair with both Lana and a younger worker at the garage who’s male. It’s gritty, sexy and violent.

Tell us about your character Lana.

Lana is quite sexy, quite cheeky; she’s friends with most of the guys. At the same time she’s also a very sad character, in my opinion she married Dino for support and he doesn’t treat her right. When she meets Luca there’s a new feeling there which she hasn’t experienced before. She gets a bit violent towards the end, and the audience are split between deciding whether she’s a heroine or villain, which is pretty interesting.

What is the most challenging aspect of playing Lana?

Ooh I’m not sure, I would probably say the fact that she has to cry a lot is pretty challenging – it can get a bit emotionally draining night after night! Lana is told something about Luca that she didn’t know and ends up turning on him. It’s a difficult role but it’s amazing and so rewarding.

As a performer, why did you want to get involved with this particular show?

Well I’ve worked with the company New Adventures before; I originally auditioned for them five years ago and took part in their production of Cinderella. I adore working for the company and working under Matthew Bourne. He directs all the shows and he’s truly fantastic. When the part came up I just couldn’t say no – I always used to see the show when it was on and I’ve seen the film plenty of times. When it came to me I couldn’t turn it down, for me it’s one of the best.

How did you first get into performing?

Well I actually come from a very theatrical family, so it was inevitable! Bonnie Langford is actually my auntie, and my mum and dad were both performers in the West End, most prominently Cats. I’m the third of four children and we’re all performers! My nan ran a dance school which we all attended for years. My parents didn’t push us into performing or anything, we all just loved it from a young age. I actually think they’d have preferred us to do something different with a more stable income! But they are very proud of all of us.

It’s interesting that your parents were in Cats, haven’t you just finished playing Demeter in the West End?

I’m actually the fifth member of my family to be in Cats! Both my parents, my auntie Bonnie and my sister Summer has just been in the tour of the musical.

Wow, I’d love to come to one of your family get-togethers!  So back to The Car Man, what is your favourite musical piece or section of the show?

Ooh that’s difficult! There is a section at the start of the second half, there’s a recognisable piece of music and it’s set in a club. At this point Lana and Luca have lots of money, and Lana is playing in this gold and white sparkly dress; it’s a very feel-good number!

The show was critically-acclaimed both in 2000 and 2007, is there any pressure for the current cast to live up to their predecessors?

Well the company is very open to the cast’s interpretations of the roles. For example, I play Lana very differently to how she has previously been played. Our reviews have been great so we must be doing something right!

Why should we buy tickets to see The Car Man?

Well if you love a bit of drama, dancing and acting, it’s definitely for you! There’s nudity, sex and high stakes of drama! It’s an incredible show; people have come out of it and told me they weren’t expecting it to be so dramatic.

What other shows have New Adventures got planned this year?

Well for the end of 2015 they’re going out with Sleeping Beauty, it’ll be going on tour and it might be coming to Sheffield- I’m not sure yet!

And yourself?

Nothing yet! Just lots of auditions until I find something. The glamourous life of an actor…

The Car Man hits Sheffield Lyceum June 23-27. Tickets from £25.00. Go for tickets and info.

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