Shechter’s visionary masterpiece wows Derry

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Perhaps ‘visionary spectacle’ best describes the long-awaited premiere of Hofesh Shechter’s reworked dance masterpiece, ‘Political Mother: Derry~Londonderry Uncut’, which was performed to an audience of thousands at the weekend.

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Or watch our video from Derry’s Xraft Village here

Friday and Saturday saw The Venue 2013 at Ebrington packed to the rafters with the curious among us - and we were not disappointed. Having had a glimpse of the show during rehearsals last week, I knew to expect the unexpected. But little prepared me for the exciting, mesmerising show to follow!

It’s difficult to describe all that Political Mother contained and the feelings it evoked. Sublime dancers from the renowned Hofesh Shechter Company were a constant below the wall of music and they brought a certain beauty to what was, at times, deafeningly loud rock riffs. With grace and passion, they danced relentlessly throughout and kept the audience guessing as to what would happen next.

The army of musicians involved in the show - 22 of whom were from our very own City of Culture - were absolutely unbelievable and deserve high praise for maintaining a professional abandon in the way they did. Suspended above the stage in layers - the whole stage set-up was certainly a feat of engineering too. Drummers, drum kits and guitarists were all stationed at the highest point, with a string section underneath, and below, that a regimental line of drummers who were occasionally illuminated in time with the music too. One thing’s for sure - Derry’s musicians did their city proud yet again.

Although the plot of the piece did escape me at times, it seemed that the dancers were some kind of slaves seeking freedom. This was reinforced by the dictator-type figure who frequently appeared on high, barking orders at all those beneath him. Shechter himself says that Political Mother is a tale of overcoming oppression, but I must admit I paid more attention to the relentless, rising beats and deftness of the dancers than to any potential message the show may have hoped to convey. It was a strange, heady mixture of rock concert and ballet, of noise and subtle nuance.

It looked stunning, it sounded stunning, and I left The Venue feeling as though I’d witnessed something undefinable but bloody spectacular. Judging by local reaction, Derry revelled in this rare treat and I hope there are many more such moments to come in 2013.