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Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal

'Two Cigarettes in the Dark'

by Stuart Sweeney

February 14, 2013 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

A man comes on in a dress, which falls to the ground revealing baggy pants and high heels, which he swaps for diver's flippers. Another man in a dress suit stands on top of a chopping block and looks smug as he sips coffee. A woman comes on giving advice about “f*****g an angel”. A man and woman joggle up and down on a chair, then break off to kiss long and hard. Two other men drink champagne but then spit it out. Yes, you guessed – Tanztheater Wuppertal are back in town.

“Two Cigarettes in the Dark” dates from 1985, a year before “Victor”, the first of the city collaborations that formed a cornerstone of the London 2012 Cultural Olympics. However, by 1985, the glory of her dance masterpiece, “The Rite of Spring”, was ten years back, and her innovative and influential Tanztheater style was well developed. Except “Two Cigarettes...” is Tanztheater virtually without Tanz. At 2hr 40 minutes including an interval (the Gods be praised) we have some 80 vignettes like the ones described above. These are played out in a stark white room with the admittedly brilliant players entering through three doors, which sometimes remain open giving glimpses of other rooms in the house, as well as huge windows showing plants, a desert scene and I know not what, as the angle of my seat to the stage meant myself and those to the left of me couldn't see that area.

“Two Cigarettes...” does address serious themes, especially the oppression of women – a hot topic in the 80's. We see women jostled, manipulated and treated with comtempt; we also are presented with women conniving in their abuse, by making surface appearance their priority as one woman permutates the words: sweet, lovely, little thing with a silly smile on her beautiful lips, and another allows herself to be used as a press for some sweets that she then gratefully eats. But without the pace or richness of staging of several of the “City” works, “Two cigarettes...” palled well before the interval and left me longing for the end.

Others enjoyed the evening more: the woman next to me chuckled a great deal at the vignettes, while afterwards a friend told me of his delight at seeing in a new setting the artists he knew so well from the Olympic Bausch marathon,. However, the press reviews have been mixed: some paying homage at the throne of Pina, while others agreeing that the length was not justified or that it was just plain boring.

Tanztheater Wuppertal have dedicated the Company to preserve the Bausch heritage, but perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt from Balanchine, who was reportedly happy that less than 100 of his 200+ works were preserved, dismissing the others as not worthy of our attention. Similarly, there could be a case for leaving some of the Tanztheater repertoire on the shelf. I for one, will think hard before giving up another evening to an unknown entry from the Bausch back catalogue.

Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying -- visit the forum.

 

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