Last Car on Earth

the very Passion of D. Moore versus the Automites

Tinkering with Othello; 100% Shakespeare reassembled in a motor garage…

—“that we can call these delicate creatures ours, and not their appetites.”

To those it just may have escaped notice of I’ve followed through on my threat to return to Shakespeare for one last bash. 
After a thoroughly enjoyable process, wherein the old master has co-operated admirably, I and my co-workers have recycled component parts of the Moor of Venice into  The Last Car on Earth – the very passion of D. Moore versus the Automites. Shakespeare has been recycled into a parable of life at the end of the age of internal combustion.  Dismantling the tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice into a pile of spare parts, we have assembled a refreshingly new play. Familiar words and poetry from the pen of the Bard remain, but now lavished upon a living, breathing motor engine, the brandished sword gives way to the bolt puller, and the text now illuminates a man’s deep passion for his first love – his car.

My performance went off under the Meteor festival for six nights at Svein’s Bil & Motor — a glorious converted stables and smithy that now serves as a two-bayed mechanic’s shop.  Musical accompaniment was provided by Asbjørn Sundal on his home-made ‘propane tank marimba’.

Those far away, should keep their eyes open for suitable playing locations…

The local paper sent a photographer and put it this way… [my translation]

——- Bergens Tidende, 26th October 2009 ———

Shakespeare for Car Lovers at Svein’s Car and Motor Ltd., Bergen.

Shakespeare for Car-lovers
–Smart Recycling of the Old Master

IT IS A BOLD project Canadians Bembo Davies and Steven Bush have set themselves.  It requires courage to tinker with Shakespeare, bringing him to life and set an immortal classic under the spotlight.  Even more bravery, not to mention fantasy, to set up a version of Othello, the Moor of Venice in a so unimaginable place as a car repair shop.

Leave your scepticism at home, for surprisingly enough Svein’s Car & Motor and Shakespeare suit each other’s company very well. And you don’t need to be either a car mechanic or a Shakespeare scholar to grasp it.  This seemingly pretentious project hasn’t fallen into the trap of being too pompous, “The Last Car on Earth” is a charming and playful performance.

ORIGINALLY, THE STORY of Othello depicts how he kills his wife in fury, due to her infidelities; too late, he finds out that she was indeed innocent, and commits suicide.
In The Last Car on Earth, it is the humankind’s ambiguous relationship to their cars that is the theme.  Mechanic D. Moore gets the message from the authorities to do his societal duty and scrap his car.  He is left frustrated and divided between following orders, or saving his belovéd car.  The de-construction is done cleverly and humourously.  Davies and Bush manage to give fresh meaning to Shakespeare in a contemporary and everyday setting.
THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE is kept, and it works well.  Davies carries Shakespeare’s speech a long way into a new time; seldom has a car mechanic been so poetic and passionate, even if a few times he balances precariously near the edge of overplaying. Fortunately, consideration is taken to the fact that old English is not part of most people’s vocabulary; the audience are given the script and can easily follow along.

Asbjørn Sundal’s accompaniment on self-made marimba, garbage can, spare parts and something resembling an ancient vacuum cleaner, underlines the poetic and gives the piece a beautiful and dream-like atmosphere.

reviewed by — Tora de Zwart Rørholt        photos: Vegar Valde


Some notes:                                                                                                                                               Actors return to Shakespeare because we must.  The challenge is not only to survive the weight of his poetry, but to negotiate our liberation from within it.  To do this as a solo piece, demanded approaching one of the great tragedies.  Othello, the Moor of Venice was a likely candidate, except for the pressing question of skin colour: —  the projection onto the blackened greasy hands of a car mechanic, came spontaneously…
By extension, a man´s love of his car could easily be every bit as believable as any feelings for any real or imagined woman.

The Last Car on Earth is my game-play reconstruction using 100% Shakespeare as component parts.  My oily fingers as the mechanic, D. Moore, reassemble a drama about our torturous relationship with our cars.  Moore, receiving word from the government that he must scrap his car in the name of the greater good, lives out his conflict between obeying orders and saving his belovéd.  To extend the metaphor, the piece is to be performed site-specific in a fully functioning garage.  The result could be just the item for a modern Shakespeare festival that values its fringe.

Old friend and co-worker, Steven Bush was engaged as Shakespeare buff/dramaturge on this project, coming over to Bergen for two weeks, and then at a follow-up session in Toronto.  Our strategy was to dismantle Shakespeare´s text into key operational components: from these spare parts a new subjective version of the story was constructed. The words of the Bard co-operated admirably; suddenly, his sub-plot of the Venetian war against the Turk, offered the key phrases that released the metaphor of the piece into the modern day.   In my downtown Toronto dialect, there is no audible differentiation between the impending threat from the Ottoman, and our present perilous existence in the grip of the “automan”.


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