I don’t remember a time when I smiled more during a theatrical experience than watching Der Fensterputzer. Originally premiered in February 1997, Der Fensterputzer boasts one of Bausch and long-time design collaborator Peter Pabst’s iconic images: a mountain of heaped red flowers piled twenty feet into the air. It provides a wonderfully inventive, funny and moving landscape as dancers ski down it, pick snakes out from amongst the petals, and fling the blossoms into the air in wondrous abandonment.
The window-washer of the title appears from time to time, nonchalantly going about his business of washing the windows of the high-rises of Hong Kong. Below him a sea of people enact moments of life as they search for ways of pleasing themselves or others, and desperately attempt to replay those moments of ecstasy and intimacy that define us.
Dizzying and beautiful solos rooted in the everyday are scattered amongst hilarious audience interactions, monologues or set-pieces. A man frenziedly tries to please a woman by getting her anything she wants. Soon, he is trying to please the audience, running at high speed to get them the object of their desire offstage. A husky-voiced vixen of a woman narrates her love affair with a man whose breath smells whilst sucking on a cornetto. Two women slowly undress a man as he tries to get past their security gate. A man sets himself hanging upside down and transports water from one bucket to another with a tiny cup, only to have the bucket emptied and begin again.
The evening is littered with futile actions, accompanied by a dizzying and disparate range of musical influences from jazz by Dizzy Gillespie to Chinese drumming and Romanian Gypsy music. The entire evening is delightful and light – so much lighter than much of Bausch’s work. Whilst exploring the futility of everyday life, Bausch has created a work that also celebrates it. Yes, we ski down mountains and play ridiculous games such as badminton. Yes, we all make love, and cheat on each other and drive ourselves a little bit mad by doing the little things that make us content. We should add flinging flowers into the air with gay abandon into our lives from time to time as well – it looks, and, I suspect, feels glorious.