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Mortal Engine Review

January 9, 2011

May 2009

Tonight I had the luck to score tickets to Mortal Engine, the acclaimed work by Melbourne’s Chunky Move dance company. Difficult to classify, this piece straddles contemporary dance, physical theatre and new media, as the cast of six dancers weave in and amongst a set defined by projected light design on a pitched stage. These genres found moments of union in the opening sequence when the dancers were haloed alternately by white or black membranes of projected light, connecting in a meiosis of human relation or when they were showered in particles like ashes or insects, exploding in a vacant cosmos or in a mechanical eruption. This point laboured through the darkness and increasing volume as the dancers reacted to the gnawing and deafening soundscape.

The choreography played a background role in this work. Swamped by the frenetic light show, the unison was lost and the sense of motion was muffled, as if under a mass of agar jelly.
To place this piece conversation with other cross-genre contemporary dance companies, it did not use the athleticism of ‘Legs on the Wall’ or the narrative theatre of ‘Compagnie Phillipe Genty’ – in this case, the point of difference was really the lighting design.

Moving from the monochromatic opening half, the second half crashed into a fragmented assault of smoke, green lasers and industrial noise. The closing scene had elements of science fiction and danger and some new conceptual direction.

I finished this piece with smoke in my lungs, a dizzy retinal laser after-burn and the vague feeling that I was sitting in the bleachers of the Hordern Pavillion, talking myself out of a K-hole. I might add, I would not have been surprised to see an ACON drug rover wander across the back of the stage in a pink safety vest to shoo us out of the auditorium when the show was over.

Mortal Engine: Sydney Theatre Walsh Bay, Till the 15th May.

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