Jump, jump, jump. And he did
From the moment the show opened with the concrete breeze block wall crashing to the floor, Palermo Palermo was always on the verge of being out of control. Women tottered in their heels over the fallen bricks, rubbish was strewn everywhere and a glamorous masked gunwoman regularly roamed the stage threatening to shoot.
The ever-tormented Julie Shanahan was particularly taut; demanding kisses, hugs and rejections and screaming at men to pelt her with tomatoes. Andrey Berezin out-freaked even her. He had a corner all to himself at the front of the stage from where, like some deranged coked-up Mafioso, it was terrifyingly unclear what he was going to do next; paint his nails, mug a man for a fag, go for a swim or blast out some tomatoes at point-blank range with his pistol?
There was humour but it was often darkly surreal – quite why six suited men with their backs to the audience playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 on six saloon pianos was funny is a mystery but it was also sinister in its mechanical off-key accuracy.
There wasn’t actually much music in the piece, and most of that was played unusually quietly, but the tolling bells that accompanied the opening ten minutes or so set the tempo and the funereal mood, drawing the audience into its doomed world of embittered, misbegotten characters. Happiness didn’t stand much of a chance after that.
Palermo Palermo was superb, engrossing from beginning to end, well, at least until the bagpipes and the dull The Fox and the Geese story that closed the drama. Of all the World Cities 2012 shows so far (and there’s just Budapest to go) Palermo is the one place Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch have made me want to see in real life. Based on this piece it looks like nowhere else on earth.