Sad Leaders

Sad Leaders – Margaret Thatcher, Chris Patten, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping get sad.

Duration 5 minutes.


Sad Leaders is a performance featuring four performers in handmade masks of known political figures. They move in exaggerated mourning gestures to a soundtrack. Across cultures, professional mourners are hired to perform mourning rituals for grieving families. Bearing the semblance of historical leaders, weight down by the wheels of history, are they mourning for past deeds or are they surrogate bodies for someone else’s grief?

Performed against a self-composed, two-part soundtrack, the first renders an infernal underworld where the masked performer get lost and languish in dark vibes; the second part takes a comical turn, the wayward soundbites are foregrounded by an upbeat backing track as if to summon the characters into a sort of awakening – one that leads them to get trapped and bemoan the turning of the wheel of history.

It is at once an exploration of exaggerated form of emotion, ideas of power, political puppetry and pathos, and how sympathy or empathy might be generated through gesture and affect, even for controversial figures. By placing figures of the bygone era in the present, displacing them from their usual public arena to a private mourning setting, gesturing to a part comical soundtrack, I hope this absurd juxtaposition and the play on time and space could create a space for reflection and contemplation.