Pina Bausch made this groundbreaking work in 1977. By deconstructing formal dance structures, applying abandoned theatricality and asking performers to excavate and expose their deepest fears and desires, she created the blueprint for all her subsequent endeavours. Like most of her works, Bluebeard interrogates the relationship between men and women in the most visceral, shocking and occasionally humorous way.
In the large empty room of an abandoned house, where the floor is covered in dead leaves, Bluebeard sits at a tape recorder playing and rewinding the opening of Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. His latest wife, Judith, lies on the floor, arms up-stretched. Every time they start to embrace, he jumps up and rewinds the tape. This is coitus interruptus in extremis.
A funereal conga of men and women snake across the stage, heads bowed. Women are singled out and positioned here and there. There is much shaking of tresses and partial disrobing before violent action begins and bodies fly across the room, slamming into walls and each other. The space becomes a churning playground of eroticised violence and soon the screaming starts, followed by laughter as women mock the cheesy machismo poses of the men. It is a battle of the sexes in a marital abattoir: a fight, if not to the death, then to physical, mental and psychical exhaustion.
As an interpretation of the power struggle between male and female it is unequivocal, uncompromising and still shocking. If the relentless repetition of the final sequence tests the patience of even the most dedicated Bausch fan it thrills the blood to see this trailblazing work performed in the UK for the first time.