Two Cigarettes in the Dark – Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Sadler’s Wells, 17 February 2013

Franco, where’s my socks?

Tsai-Chin Yu celebrates scoring the winning goal for Wuppertal in the Champions League Final. Photo by Alastair Muir

Tsai-Chin Yu celebrates scoring the winning goal for Wuppertal in the Champions League Final. Photo by Alastair Muir

Coming as it does from roughly the middle of Pina Bausch’s choreographic career Two Cigarettes in the Dark subtly reflects how Bausch’s output changed over the course of her time at the helm of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.

The piece begins with the cruelty of gender relations, especially towards the women who are often to be found running about screaming. One woman is forced to her knees to clear a puddle off the floor, then marched to the corner of the stage, made to take her panties off and ordered to pee on the floor by a man in a dinner jacket. Most disturbing of all, Anna Wehsarg is sent crashing into the walls of Peter Pabst’s white-room set with her arm in a sling and a saucepan dangerously trailing her every move from the end of a rope tied around her waist; she then lays down, legs akimbo and the saucepan suddenly becomes a baby attached to her by it’s ropey umbilical cord.

But the piece gradually mellows and ultimately it’s melancholy sadness that prevails, nowhere more so than when four guys and four girls sit on opposite sides of the stage smoking and sobbing into their laps.

There are flashes of humour; the slip-sliding dog was unbearably cute and the slow-motion lovers in the tropical display case unexpectedly getting shot was inexplicably funny.

Overall, though, Two Cigarettes in the Dark is not one of Bausch’s best pieces. It’s very slow but never acquires the hypnotic pulse that permeates her most powerful work. There’s still plenty of invention to admire (the extraordinary human nutcracker, for example) but there are long periods with very quiet music or no music at all where what’s happening on the stage doesn’t fill the space. Also, there’s virtually no dancing to maintain momentum, just a couple of short solos and a strangely amusing bum-shuffling waltz to Ravel’s La Valse. Nevertheless, as always with Bausch, you get your money’s worth.

Gerard Davis

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