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Political Mother Unplugged

Hofesh Shechter

Hofesh Shechter Company,

HOME Manchester

27-30 October 2021, 1hr 10min

Precision, tenderness, exhilaration: Hoifesh Shechter Company in Political Mother Unplugged. All pics: Agathe Poupeney

Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother made a big impact when it was created 10 years ago. Its use of projection, vivid lighting and the almost non-stop energy of its dance (with a thundering and pounding soundtrack much of the time) were radical and exciting.

Now, as many others (and Shechter himself) have continued down the same road, its mind-blowing assault on the senses may not seem quite so overwhelming. I can’t say I remember every detail of the original version, and this Unplugged revisit, with a new and youthful company of dancers, recalls many of the impressions of that night at The Lowry, but it underscores the lasting qualities of the Shechter style and scenic vocabulary – and they are the things that really were best about the show in the first place.

Both visually, aurally and choreographically, he has a peculiar talent for seeming to reference things that ring bells but remain imprecise. What is the point, you ask yourself, of the Samurai-style bits of armour the dancers wear some of the time? Why does he begin with Verdi’s Requiem Aeternam before getting to the present-day music (and chuck in more brief classical interpolations later)? What’s he telling us with a slogan projected on to the back of the scene saying (by stages): “Where there is pressure there is folk dance”? What’s the title about, for goodness sake?

You make what you will of Shechter’s stimuli. Write your own scenario. I think I get a picture of a ranting male “leader” (in the projection and sound, massive and overwhelming like Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984) persuading us all to move at his commands. So we’re all being manipulated… but (and I’ve said this before) Hofesh Shechter is himself the master manipulator: that’s what the show does. If there is a “message”, it’s in the final song – but that’s as ambiguous as they get.

Beyond that, the choreography stands in its own right. It’s just so good to look at, both jagged and fluid, inventive and contrasted – and virtuosically realised by this young company, with their extraordinary precision, their tenderness, their sheer exhilaration.

Hopefully, Hofesh hasn’t run out of ideas – revisiting old work is all very well, but that was then and this is…


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