A Girl in a Car with a Man opens with a series of flickering black and white CCTV images projected onto a backdrop of TV screens. We are quickly drawn into a mysterious encounter between Stella, a woman who thinks she may have driven into someone and Dave, a passing motorist. It's raining heavily and Dave invites Stella back to his home to wait for the police to arrive. Elsewhere on the same night, Alex, a narcissistic young gay man, is planning a night out and a policewoman is investigating the disappearance of a schoolgirl - or is she? As the play progresses, we follow these and other characters over the course of a single night, switching between dialogues about unfolding the mysteries and Alex's high-paced, self-obsessed stream of conscience.
So what's the play about? At one point Alex walks into a club and describes his effect on four of the men at the bar – not touching them, but connected to each of them by an invisible wire. This whole concept of being connected and not connected runs through the play as the narrative switches between events in the lives of an apparently arbitrary collection of unconnected people.
In many ways, the piece is a critique of the information society. Dave listens to the radio, whilst Stella sells things on a TV shopping channel, but doesn’t know whether anyone is watching. And this is the other big theme – the idea that we are all watching and being watched. Are the ubiquitous CCTV cameras a benign protective presence and what happens when we wander into a blind spot? Can a still camera catch the essence of loved one – her touch, her warmth, her smell or can a photograph, however superficially intimate, only ever allow us to remember some at a distance?
Then there are the images that are thrown back at us – like that of the abducted school girl that appears on TV screens and seems to intrude into the lives of the characters– a ghostly, haunting, uninvited and increasingly disturbing presence.
Overall, the play is slightly confusing and, at times, disjointed, although the individual scenes come across well. SLAM Theatre is a group of talented, versatile actors and there were strong performances from Ryan Lea (David), Kathleen Kelso (Stella) and Ali Johnston (Alex) who succeeded in conjuring lonely roads, a claustrophobic living room, a rain-swept river bank and a crowded night club out the small studio space that is 'The Pilch'.