Øyen spent much of his childhood in the wings of Den Nationale Scene, a drama theatre set up by Norway’s most famous playwright, Henrik Ibsen. He first choreographed in 2004, and two years later had his own company Winter Guests. In 2013 he was invited by the Oslo Opera House to become an associated artist.
Bon Voyage, Bob is a lengthy episodic piece of dance theatre. The performers wander on casually, some holding a cigarette, others a glass of wine, as the audience are still taking their seats. The set features a disparate collection of everyday objects – a telephone, a clock.
A woman suddenly begins to dance hypnotically, her seemingly self-absorbed movement ranging from the personal to standard contemporary technique
As the work formally starts, a man reaches up to the clock and removes the battery. Time stops and the journey of Bon Voyage, Bob begins, propelled by Alex Eales’ rotational set, which endlessly turns, allowing for a smooth transition between scenes.
Most scenes begin with, or include text. This begs the question why dance is silent. Then someone dances and we are reminded of the power of the body as the sole communicator.
The trend of Norwegian realism continues, with heavy doses of comic surrealism interjecting to keep the experience from getting too heavy. In what is primarily a piece of dance theatre, pure dance does feature in around one-third of the evening, and the choreography is quite brilliant: articulate, purposeful, expansive and original. A number of solos and duets show the strengths of the dancers, sometimes directly related to content, other times used as light relief.
Bon Voyage, Bob is anchored on the dancers’ own biographies, or so one can presume. The performers use their own names, and it feels like their monologues and interactions come from actual experiences. Their talent means they can perform, but the performance suggests far more than just executing someone else's work, though (of course) everything is seen through Øyen's perspective.
Visually Bon Voyage, Bob is very atmospheric. Martin Flack's expert lighting design is ingenious and endlessly varied; the soundtrack designed by Gunnar Innvær includes music from thirty different composers, and is used in a similar way to a film score
As an outstanding piece of theatre Bon Voyage, Bob has a profound impact. Øyen has an interest in the human cycle, perhaps more in its end than its beginning. That said, though, hope is interspersed throughout. And as a talented dance maker he expertly weaves his choreography into the work’s overriding concept.
At three and a half hours, Tanztheater Wuppertal’s Bon Voyage, Bob makes for long viewing, but offers ample rewards and is an important pointer to the company’s future direction, ten years after the death of its founder.
|What||Tanztheater Wuppertal, Bon Voyage, Bob Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
22 Feb 19 – 25 Feb 19, 19:00 Sun at 16:00:00 Dur.: 3 hours 25 mins inc one interval
|Price||£12-£60 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|