Test Drive

I went to see Clutch at Bush Theatre. I booked for this first night performance a while ago, before we knew of today’s big event. The theatre never seemed to be in doubt they were going ahead in spite of that, though I did get a message that this show was to be taken as an Open Dress Rehearsal, “due to cast illness earlier in the week resulting in some delays to our schedule”. This may also be why the cast I saw tonight are not quite the ones in the poster.

I can’t give a picture of the Content Warning sign this time as there wasn’t one, I suppose all it would say is “it’s a bit sweary”.

In the Studio space, with seating on 3 sides of a simple set that serves as a Driving School car and also a pub, and the homes of the 2 characters: Tyler, the young learner, and Max, his older instructor. Exact ages aren’t given but we can take it that Max is near 60, while Tyler may be getting near to 30, based on his comments about falling behind and not having started his adult life. Tyler is a transman, and trying to get in to a relationship, and get away from living in Birmingham. The transgender aspect of his life is not the main focus, but it comes back again later when Max recalls the life of his older brother, a gay man in 80s London rejected by the rest of the family.

Much of the action is simple comedy about a learner driver and teacher, with plenty of sound effects and shocks to animate the basic model on the stage. I was surprised to hear that you don’t need to do a 3-point turn in the current UK Driving Test, no wonder there are such idiots on the road every time I have to hire a car these days. Of course a nasty accident occurs as the main plot point, but it does strangely little damage to the growing friendship between a young man and an old man. This is story about people with jobs getting on with their lives. I think there was a passing reference to the Pandemic but I’m not sure. This is set in 2019 at the earliest.

Before and after the show we hear some car-themed music (in addition to the rendition of “Mr Blue Sky” by E.L.O. from Tyler) – Gary Numan, Billy Ocean, and some power pop I couldn’t recognise. They could have also had “In Your Car” by Kenickie, “Joyride” by Roxette, “Drive My Car” by The Beatles, and of course “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?” by The Cars, that’s a double word score. The picture in the banner is the sleeve of “Daydreamer” by Menswear, who also had a b-side “Crash“.

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