Showing @ Playhouse until 29th Aug until 29th Aug 19:30 2h 35m
House cats long to be jungle cats and birds will always prefer the canopy to the gilded cage; this is the lesson of Água, the late Pina Bausch’s ‘ Tanztheater Wuppertal’ hymn to sensuality over the merely sensory.
Nowhere in the world better exemplifies the pull between civilisation and the untamed than Brazil; on the fault lines of culture, history, race and class, this country provides the backdrop to a witty, sharp, sexy and wholly engaging production.
The imagination and committed physicality on display was absorbing and the sheer playfulness of these gifted performers was a joy to watch. Of course Tanztheater means more than simply dance and so there were skits, stories, jokes and audience interaction and the rich mix of ingredients provided intriguing entertainment.
The comedic elements came primarily at the expense of the idle, hedonistic, ultra-rich spending their time indulging in games and searching for the next experience whilst a stones throw away was the wildness of the jungle and the heat and rawness of the street. Enjoyable as this take was it also felt slightly condescending, contrasting their ivory tower lives with the poor, ‘carefree’, rhythm inspired favela dwellers and peasants. Mixing throbbing afro-South American beats with quirky western avant-guard tunes was a great success and perfectly mirrored the conflicting nature of this complicated country. It also helped with the fast paced changes in tone between anarchic kaleidoscopes of colour and muted tenderness, which gave this show much of its vibrant appeal. With huge video projections of jungles and landscapes, designer Peter Pabst complimented the mood on stage, particularly in the final section where the cataracts and spray of water on screen blended with the H2O infected madness on stage.
Much has been said since Bausch’s passing last year as to whether the company could or should remain in existence but on the evidence here the imagination and presence of their gifted leader is still a powerful force in this exceptionally rich, warm and joyful piece of dance theatre.