The glorious parade, the sublime sunbathing, the twisted beauty pageant, the parade again, the deer, the lawn, frenetic hide-and-seek, tongue twister fails, ‘fantastic’, the baby rattle, the long farewell, tea time, the parade, the parade and yet again the parade. ‘1980, a piece by Pina Bausch’, dazzles, delights and frustrates in equal measure. Like life, at times it bores, at times it uplifts; by turns, I agree utterly with its politics and then I find them cack-handed and simplistic. Of course, it speaks with a timeless voice on life and death, gender and power and sorrow and joy – but it often uses the period language and concerns of thirty years ago. It cleverly deconstructs the crass indignities of beauty competitions, but Miss World and Miss Universe are no longer the mainstream staple they were in the 1970s – some younger audience members didn’t really understand what the sequence was about – but the issues are still all-too-current, and the heady mix of humour, style, chaos and pathos means it reaches out way beyond its historical context.
Looking back at film of the original production, it is interesting to see how the casting has changed – in the eighties, the women are very similar in age, body shape and ethnicity, but now it is a joyous mix: lived-in, mature bodies hold their own against younger figures and they’re a global mix of skin tones, shapes and sizes. And it’s truly thrilling that some of the original cast are still doing it – not least the gravelly voiced Mechtild Grossman and the disarmingly charming Lutz Förster. The influence is massive; one minute it’s like watching an existential version of ‘A Chorus Line’, the next it’s a Katie Mitchell Chekhov, suddenly it’s the Gandinis’ ‘Smashed’ and then it’s anything by DV8. To modern tastes ‘1980’ is a long haul, but after so long in their company, you feel that you know each performer individually, and that sense of warmth left me feeling just a little guilty for enjoying it all a bit too much – how I wanted to jump up and join on the end of the parade… maybe in another thirty years.