|Wiesenland, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Sadler's Wells, review|
|Life & Entertainment - Performing Arts|
|Written by news desk - telegraph.co.ukm|
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s month-long World Cities 2012 season at Sadler's Wells - part of London 2012 Festival - came to a powerful conclusion with 'Wiesenland', writes Mark Monahan.
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s month-long World Cities 2012 season came this week to a quintessentially Bauschian close. On the down side (to a Bausch sceptic, at any rate), this meant that most of the tropes in Wiesenland – structural and specific, physical and emotional, audio and visual – were already familiar from earlier pieces in the run.
At 145 minutes, it wasn’t exactly concise, although admittedly barely a haiku compared with earlier works in the run. And, not for the first time, there was a fair bit of attempted humour that deserved no more than the politest titter – Bausch’s very best choreography avoids all attempts to be quaint and simply plunges face-first into the abyss.
But there was plenty to enjoy, too, in her response to a stay in Budapest around 12 years ago. Unlike her touristy responses to the East, Wiesenland (“Meadowland”) saw this most European of choreographers very much at home. Although landlocked, Hungary is bisected by the Danube and peppered with thermal lakes, and, rather than peering at the country from the outside in, Bausch elegantly if obliquely embraced both its landscapes and its folk music, interweaving them with her own time-honoured sexual, emotional and elemental preoccupations.
As ever, the situations, vignettes and companionship-seeking characters came and went with the randomness of the customers who frequented her parents’ café (under whose tables the young Bausch would hide, observing). Images that stick in the mind included a woman trying vainly to run away on what amounted to a revolving caterpillar-track of men, and couples sizing each other up with measuring-tapes. But the piece was at its most powerful when conveying its almost Zoroastrian struggle between purity (represented by water) and impurity (cigarette smoke).
Water was everywhere, trickling beguilingly down set-designer Peter Pabst’s drop-dead gorgeous bank of moss – marvellously transformed from riverbank to meadow half way in – as well as being sprayed, poured, splashed, dripped and drizzled from one performer to the next.
At the close, six women alternated stolen puffs on cigarettes with great facefuls of cleansing water, in a perpetual and, to most of us, all-too-recognisable cycle of vice and virtue. What a satisfyingly vivid, universal and bittersweet note on which to end.