Norwegian choreographer, director and award-winning playwright Alan Lucien Øyen has worked with the dancers of Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. The result is Bon Voyage, Bob; a show that blends multiple disciplines into a surreal and charming theatre piece. Sixteen of the company’s dancers interact with the audience through dance, spoken text, singing, live chalk drawings and even a game of hangman.
Alan Lucien Øyen and Dimitris Papaioannou (whose piece ‘Since she’ was performed last week) are the first two choreographers to work with the company since Pina Bausch’s death in 2009. Whilst the choreographers have used different methods, there is a similarity in that both shows see the creation of two dream-like fantasies on stage. The fantasy of Bon Voyage, Bob draws closely to human events and experiences.
As the set is rotated, the audience is transported from kitchens to bedrooms to cafes in what seems like a limitless supply of scenes and scenarios. It is cleverly designed, and the peeling paint and wallpaper provides an intimate, lived-in feel. Adding to the charm, the retro-vintage style in the costumes is particularly eye-catching. There is one scene where the dancers glide across the stage in suits and ball gowns in a glamorous and glitzy ballroom scene.
The dancing in Bon Voyage, Bob is often showcased in a variety of solos and duets. Here, the dancers are seamless and perform with an intense, lucid quality that involves striking hand gestures and a changing, melodic score. Stephanie Troyak moves beautifully and there is also a wonderful duet with angel wings included. In fact, these angel wings make regular appearances from a restaurant scene to quirky and impressive blackboard drawing.
Bon Voyage, Bob is full of surprises and a dancing human sized horse only adds to the show’s magic. In one unexpected moment, the lights are brought up and the audience are invited to play a game of hangman. Letters and words are shouted out as the bizarre and unusual world onstage is brought closer to the audience in their seats. There is a fun and light-heartedness in all of this but woven into the show is the topic of grief. This theme is often played out in different losses that appear as ethereal, dark or comedic in attitude. One of these scenarios is a text where the words “Did I ever tell you about your father? He was beautiful” are brought up in conversation and echoed throughout the performance. With the nature of the show’s creation it seems apt that some of these losses would relate to the passing of Pina Bausch herself.
Bon Voyage, Bob is abstract and comic, like watching a dance show, a play, and a movie all at once. The show is wrapped up with the dancers performing together in a beautiful, wintry finale.
Review by Eleanor Soflet
Photo credit: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch (c) Uwe Schinkel