Tanztheater Wuppertal: Iphigenie auf Tauris


I wonder, did Pina Bausch know about the existence of trousers? By the end of the fourth act I thought I would scream if I saw another woman in a nightie or man in a dress.

As always, Pina conjured up some powerful and poetic images – when the curtain was raised for the second act the audience stirred and the women behind me gave an "Oooh…" as it revealed two symmetrical entangled largely naked human forms, lying centre stage on a wooden table. Orest and his lover (yeah yeah clearly they were lovers, let’s not pretend that’s the way a platonic relationship goes) backs to the audience, slowly in unison sinking and spreading their muscled bodies out over the floor leaving Iphigenie erect and vertical beside.

Also great was the play of the lighting rigs moving up and down in a scene, this completely changed the perspective; the tale is an ancient one by Euripides about death and gods and pain and then we are openly reminded of the suspension of disbelief and the constructedness of the performance. This somehow emphasised the endurance of such drama. I loved all the women walking in time with the music across the back of the stage then filing round carrying wooden chairs and also the moment when Iphigenie is about to kill Orest – the scene is set up on a diagonal and Iphigenie standing in a bath tub clad in a black dress, hair all long and lustrous falling over her bare back, dagger poised above the neck of Orest lying on the 'altar', his bared body covered in white flowers. It was the starkness of all these images that I liked, how simple and unadorned elements (wooden table and chairs, bath tub) combined to create something powerful and beyond themselves: this is usually what I find attractive about Bausch’s work.

Why were the flowers laid on Orest’s body artificial? They kept falling off and making a plastic "Smack!" that kind of shook up the High Drama and Emotional Intensity.

I know that it is an old work from 1974, but that knowledge doesn't allow me to see it any differently – maybe because I wasn't alive then. I spent some of the time thinking about my Halloween outfit, whether Bausch had ever heard of bras and about a piece described to me earlier in the day where two performers try to keep dildos up their anal passages. I began to imagine the dancers onstage sustaining anal penetration via dildo… Maybe this 'highbrow' stuff is not for me. And highbrow it was: live orchestra, opera sung in German, Euripides, contemporary dance – wowza. The only words I know in German are the ones for death, love, brother and sister – they turned out to be appropriate. I felt better when the women sitting behind me started giggling at one point – then I could roll my eyes and feel superior.

I do like how Bausch's work is so reliant on long hair.

The sets were beautiful, as always, I loved the portable bathtub but enough of flailing arms and man skin on man skin in homoerotic, muscled, pant-wearing splendour, although, the guys did bring some welcome vitriol to the situation – Pina’s women were too wafty for me.

Something weird happened to me during the bows: for a split second I thought I would burst into tears. Maybe that is a testament to Pina Bausch being able to touch the hardest of hearts or simply my distress at remaining untouched.

Who knows.


'Iphigenie auf Tauris' by Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal, 27-31 October 2010, Sadler's Wells, London