Bon Voyage, Bob – Sadler’s Wells, London

Writer: Alan Lucien Øyen

Reviewer: Sophia Moss

Where can you watch a life-size dancing horse, a man being rubbed across a chalkboard and a woman shoot herself in the head, twice? You can see all this and more during Bon Voyage, Bob.

Bon Voyage, Bob is a unique blend of dance, theatre, spoken word and visual art in the unique Tanztheatre (dance theatre) style. The performance is surreal – at one point a man enters the stage dressed as a horse, complete with a horse’s head, and boogies in the background with absolutely no explanation – but real, human experiences are at the heart of this production.

Death is a recurrent theme in this performance. In one darkly comedic scene, a woman, with long red strings coming out of her eyes, attempts to arrange her father’s burial with an unsympathetic undertaker, who taps cigarette ash into an urn who compares waiting until after someone is dead to arrange their burial spot, with arriving at a restaurant at 20:30 and expecting the best seat. The cast frequently smokes cigarettes on stage and, during an audience participation game of hangmen, dancer Nazareth Panadero attempts to sell the audience cigarettes while telling them it is the “easiest way to heaven.”

It is not surprising that themes of loss played such a big role in this performance. Pina Bausch, the company’s original founder and choreographer, died unexpectedly in 2009 and, despite new members, new choreographers and new pieces, she is always present in their work. The theme of loss goes beyond one person, however, and explores the loss of community, of routine, and how our memories change so we lose sight of what really happened.

Choreographer Alan Lucien Oyen spent the first week of workshopping the piece simply sitting in an atmospheric place with the cast and having a conversation, allowing the dancers to share their experiences and shape the themes of the show. The choreography throughout Bon Voyage, Bob combines big, fluid movements which are almost frenzied in nature. The movement appears to symbolise the dancer trying to escape their confines by reaching upwards, jumping outwards and jerking, clutching their heads. This is contrasted with stylised isolations, which give as much emphasis on a single wagging finger as a whole-body movement.

The lighting gives the stage a green-blue tinge, which makes it feel somehow otherworldly and faintly sinister. The three cutaway rooms on set often rotate in the background, perhaps symbolising the constant moving of the earth.  The costumes change, but there is a distinct feel of the past in the look of the set and clothing.

Bon Voyage, Bob is thought-provoking, unnerving, sad and surprisingly funny, but at over three hours it is also very long. Some of the themes feel overdone or dragged out longer than is perhaps needed, and the audience may find it hard it to focus towards the end of the show. It is, however, a truly memorable show which will not fail to surprise you.

Runs until 25th February 2019 | Image: Contributed

Review Overview

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Unnerving, sad and surprisingly funny

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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