There is a lot of hoohah surrounding this man and Sadlers Wells was packed like I haven’t seen it in a long time; there was a lot of pressure for him to deliver something pretty fucking amazing. “When there is pressure there is folk dance”.
Hmm. Yes, anticlimax.
The show opened like the first act of an operatic tragedy. A dancer stands centre stage in a knights costume holding a sword. The words “Political Mother” are projected onto a screen behind him. I am annoyed – the font is terrible and there is a huge gap between the words that manages to undermine any drama that is trying to be created. Maybe I am petty, but I don’t think so: choreography is about consideration of details. Then the guy fake-stabs himself.
If les Ballets C de la B are the literary fiction of contemporary dance then Shechter is the graphic novel. His work is a series of dark and powerful stylised images. I would actually love to see Hofesh Shechter the graphic novel but this piece was like Hofesh the Musical (as a friend aptly put it). The sense of plot was lost as strong image followed strong image in rapid succession and the grandeur became pomp as five guitarist were revealed on a platform upstage ‘rocking out’ on shiny instruments to their nu-metal riffs.
At this moment, Hofesh lost his cool.
This is not to say that some of the staging isn’t great – the moment when the drummers are first lit, leaving everything else blackness, standing uniform in a row at the back of the stage and drumming military-style, is quite magic and I was transfixed by their movement. Above the drummers, in the middle of the guitarists is a man with a microphone, at times he is like a preacher, at times a gorilla, a rockstar, a dancer, a ringleader, some demented Master of Ceremonies. He is lit with his microphone in a square of light, the rest is darkness and his white shirt gleams as he writhes and screams like a man possessed.
This I like.
The company are stellar dancers, fantastic movers with incredible control over their physicality that despite this control, is charged and insane. The movement vocabulary is distinctive and evocative – lowered heads, tense fingers like spikes or as though made stiff by a fit, arms held above the head in despair or askance or offering or as defence or like zombies, that seamlessly moves into pristine floorwork and intricate articulation. They transform from monkeys to drones in a factory to fighters to ravers. It’s so smooth my eyes do not even break down the movements; you just trace the rhythm, the expansion and withdrawal. Watching them gives me a hunger. But the main fallback is the rhythm and pacing of the piece as a whole. It was like a horny teenage boy having sex – all BANG BANG BANG stop BANG stop BANG BANG BANG BANG – and this becomes predictable, the lack of subtlety or nuance somehow denies the movement its power. Which is a shame.
‘Political Mother’ by Hofesh Shechter, 14-17 July 2010 Sadler’s Wells Theatre