Political Mother Unplugged

Hofesh Shechter
Shechter II
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Artists from Shechter II in Political Mother Unplugged Credit: Hofesh Shechter Company

Ten years after the debut of Political Mother, Hofesh Schechter returns to his iconic work for this ‘unplugged’ version, performed by Shechter II—an ensemble of nine hand-picked young dancers.

Political Mother Unplugged is made up of multiple, short, danced episodes—some only seconds long—interspersed with projected video. These black and white animations by Shay Hamias depict musicians playing and a dictator making impassioned speeches, their stylisation a perfect fit for the tone of the work—which is important, given the long periods of time that they are the only thing to look at.

When the dancers are onstage, they are constantly on the move: jumping and turning on the spot, stamping, convulsing or flailing their arms in repetitive, rhythmic, tribal movements. Overall, there's very little stillness and an abundance of energy in Shechter's choreography. Yet, paradoxically, the dancers often have the body language of the downtrodden—shuffling their feet, hunching their shoulders, limply raising their arms—and seem always to be looking inward, their interactions with each other or the audience kept to a minimum.

The soundtrack is a specially assembled blend of drums, bass and electric guitar, with a smattering of classical music and Joni Mitchell thrown in. It's loud, aggressive and overwhelming, underlining the urgency of the work with a pulsating beat that at times seems to control the dancers. These are the moments when Political Mother Unplugged is at its best—when the dancers move to the beat with herd mentality, perfectly as one, their energy spilling out into audience in an infectious wave.

Merle Hensel’s costumes follow the same lines as the score—a curious mix of modern clothes, crumpled, baggy pyjama-style uniform and samurai armour. The work opens with one dancer in the latter costume falling graphically on his sword, and it continues in this vein—with an angry intensity that is constant and exhausting. Political Mother Unplugged is by no means an easy watch, but that's what makes it ultimately unforgettable.

Reviewer: Georgina Wells