Sometimes a trip to the theatre can be truly exhilarating, confronting and prescient. Last night I went with my friend Sara to see Political Mother by British based Israeli choreographer, Hofesh Shechter, and it was indeed all of those things – and a lot more besides. In essence, it is a piece that explores the relationship between society and state, duty and service and brutalisation by a repressive power. The staging is epic – and very loud (being issued with ear plugs by the theatre was a first for us, although they remained unused). Political Mother has had a few incarnations and we witnessed another one, with it being re-worked a little for the festival it was part of and the addition of young, local musicians, largely drummers, to an already significant cast of dancers and musicians.
It has toured significantly around the world and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to see something I had been reading about with envy – the reviews have been almost uniformly outstanding. You can see for yourself here and here.
However, it wasn’t simply the piece that was so enthralling, it was also the context in which it was being performed. The monolith of a building in which it was staged, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, was commissioned and built under British colonial rule and is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. Ten minutes walk away is the commercial district of Mong Kok, where protests for universal suffrage continue. Across Victoria Harbour from the theatre is the other site of protest, with roads closed and a growing tent city springing up. It was palpable that the irony of a governmental sponsored festival hosting Political Mother was not lost on the majority of the audience. We were left wondering what the performers thought about the timeliness of their work in Hong Kong.
Dance and politics have never been far apart. One of the founders of contemporary dance, Martha Graham was no stranger to this fact, as this short documentary shows: