Review: Little Revolution, Almeida Theatre (edited)
Review: The Me Plays, Old Red Lion Theatre

Review: Neil LaBute's Autobahn at the King's Head Theatre

Sharon Maughan and Henry Everett in Autobahn, King's Head Theatre 4 - (c) Scott Rylander
Sharon Maughan and Henry Everett

Neil LaBute has knack for highlighting the more dislikeable and sometimes downright sinister side of human nature and in Autobahn - making its London premiere - we are treated to seven short plays to make the point.

Each 'playlet' is set in a car, sometimes parked, sometimes on a journey which as a device serves to heighten the tensions in the conversations that are played out. The stories alternate between a one-sided conversation, a monologue in essence and then something more conversational. A cast of four - Zoe Swenson-Graham, Sharon Maughan, Tom Slatter and Henry Everett - take on the twelve parts.

LaBute doesn't like to give the audience anything up front, the effect is a narrative strip tease leaving you with two characters that don't quite look how you first imagined.  And it is in doing this that the grubbier side of humanity is revealed, from the husband who calls his wife a 'c*nt' in public, the girl who sent dead animals to an ex-boyfriend and the friend who puts his own needs ahead of those of his recently jilted mate.

Zoe Swenson-Graham and Tom Slatter Sharon Maughan in Autobahn, King's Head Theatre 2 - (c) Scott Rylander
Zoe Swenson-Graham and Tom Slatter

There are some laugh out loud moments and some in which you feel distinctly uncomfortable. Not all the plays fly brilliantly, the monologues are less effective than the conversations and some scenarios weaker than others. It is, however, always a treat to see actors taking on different characters in short succession, watching the physical tics and tone change. Zoe Swenson-Graham and Henry Everett probably have the most contrasting characters and move effortlessly between them.

My slight reservation with this format is that is does become a little formulaic both in the style of each play - monologue/conversation - and the way in which LaBute structures the narrative.

The setting is exactly the same so it would have been nice to have had a new element or two mixed in. Inevitably some of the plays jump out while others fade into the background. Perhaps taking a couple of wheels off the vehicle might make it drive more consistently.

If you like Neil LaBute's writing and theatre that exposes the darker, stranger side to people then this will be for you.

It runs at the King's Head Theatre until 20 September and is two hours and five minutes including an interval.


Regulars to this little indulgence of mine will know that Henry was one of the understudies in Peter and Alice and not only that but got to go on one night.