Two Cigarettes in the Dark, Pina Bausch, Tanztheater Wuppertal, Sadler’s Wells, London
Friday 15 February 2013
If the phrase “rarely performed work” sets off warning bells, hearing that it explores the monotony of existence has them clanging. Pina Bausch was one of the most influential choreographers of the twentieth century, creating onstage worlds of surreal images and human need. Two Cigarettes in the Dark, which opens a London season by Bausch’s own company, has her usual themes without her best insights. It’s a long, long evening.
Peter Pabst’s stark white set is boxed in to create a space smaller than the stage, with closed-off rooms at the edges. The back wall has a window onto a brightly-lit jungle. One side has a wall of fish tanks with real fish.
The usual cast of Bausch people totter in: women in long dresses and killer heels, men in suits. They quarrel in several languages, speak to the audience or smirk out at us, repeat obsessive patterns of behaviour or just mooch about. The soundtrack is a jumble of classical music and 1940s songs. Bausch’s works are often monumentally long, but Two Cigarettes in the Dark is horribly slow. Action and ideas are spread thin.
As Helena Pikon lurches about the stage, swinging her hair, a man brings a log on stage, turns it upright and stands on it, holding a teacup. When she moves behind his log, a second man catches her and forcibly changes her cream silk dress for red tulle.
When someone spills a puddle of alcohol onstage, another man drags a woman in and blames her for it, as if he were angrily house-training a puppy. Messy male-female relationships are a Bausch speciality; her works are full of casual cruelties and humiliations. This feels like a choreographer repeating herself.
A few scenes stand out. Aida Vainieri comes on in a 1950s swimsuit, carrying a striped towel. She lies down on it, then pulls it into a hammock shape. She snuggles happily, eyes blissfully closed, even though she’s the one holding herself up. The whole cast rock on the floor to Ravel’s La Valse, scrambling in a wild seated shuffle. Two women look out at the audience, reciting prices while thrusting a hip or a breast. After a long pause, one says witheringly, “It’s the interval.”
Some scenes look dangerous, including a chase with an axe and some precarious balancing on logs or planks. Dominique Mercy puts on flippers to splash through the fish tank, as a colleague shouts abuse from the stage. I feel sorry for the fish.
Until 17 February. Box office 0844 412 4300
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
- 5 Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Great British Bake Off 2014: Diana Beard quits after falling ill
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Homer Simpson takes the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he does
Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Great British Bake Off embroiled in Baked Alaska 'sabotage' scandal
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >