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Bon Voyage, Bob review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘darkly humorous and frequently beautiful’

Stephanie Troyak and Pau Aran Gimeno in Bon Voyage, Bob at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Since Pina Bausch’s death in 2009, her company Tanztheater Wuppertal has exclusively performed her work. Now, as the company begins to look to new choreographers, the question hangs in the air: how to make new works but continue a legacy?

It is not a question easily answered. Following Dimitris Papaioannou’s Since She, Alan Lucien Oyen is the second choreographer to face that daunting task. His new creation for the company, Bon Voyage, Bob, is a three-hour reflection on death, loss and the challenge of continuing life in the midst of this.

It’s dark and often dry in its use of humour, far from sentimental and not always easy to watch, but it’s not without beauty. The phrases of solo movement enhance the spoken text and there are poignant, even tender moments, that are poetic in their simplicity.

Stretched across two acts, the piece continually shifts between scenes. The first act is monotonous in pace, the second sharper and more concise in its imagery.

Across both, the relationship between text and movement hovers between quiet brilliance and jarring simplicity. The cumulative effect is like watching a pared-down version of a play, but the details ordinarily built up through language are not quite matched by this work’s physicality.

In many ways, Bon Voyage, Bob is sympathetic to Bausch’s legacy. It bears the influence of her style and suits her company. But when a dance work tips over the three-hour mark, it needs to be remarkable to justify the investment of time. This piece just does not offer enough.

Choreographer Alan Lucien Oyen: ‘Pina Bausch’s legacy is what’s most important to the company’

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Darkly humorous and frequently beautiful but unnecessarily drawn-out reflection on death and loss