Left - Lee Serle. Photo - Andrew Curtis
Mortal Engine is quite simply the most spectacular, laser, light and video show you will ever see. While it is also a piece of movement theatre composed by Aussie dance group Chunky Move, the visuals and sound take centre stage.
From reading the programme notes, these eye-popping visuals appear to be a collaboration between lighting designer Damien Cooper, laser and sound artist Robin Fox, Multi-media designer Nick Roux and interactive system designer Frieder Weiss. Weiss has enabled sound, music and light to respond to each other and interact in real time.
Although the visuals are mesmerising and at times hypnotic, at no stage do they become irritating. As someone who has to close his eyes at concerts and clubs to avoid the rapidly flashing strobe lights, this was a great relief. You may want to sit to one side of the stage though, to avoid being caught in the glare of the impressive green strobe light which encloses the single dancer in a cloud like-shimmering, towards the end of the piece.
Expansion and contraction is a common feature in the light and laser displays. We often see the visuals start big and then contract to a single point before vanishing. The real time interaction works best when the dancers are each engulfed by a dark splodge of light which adapts and moves with them as they role around like an orgy of earth worms.
Ben Frost’s score varies, from electric buzzing flies to massive bass lines. Each sound seems to occupy its own space, whether appearing in a tiny spot or enveloping the whole theatre. When the score is at its most brutal, it resembles the precise inhuman beats of British outfit, Autechre, without the repetition that dominates much of this British duo’s music.
Unlike many works of dance and movement, the main focus is not on the dancers themselves. The dancers become just another component for the team of visual designers to work with. They reappear on stage for their bows, but it feels as though the production team should come out of their little boxes and bow with them.
Watching Mortal Engine is a bit like watching a fireworks display. You feel awestruck at the time but nothing resonates with you as you leave the theatre and walk into the night. Still the visual assault is spectacular and definitely worth a look. What say we let these guys loose on the harbour bridge for New Year’s Eve 2010?
Chunky Move presents
March 3-13, 2010
The CUB Malthouse
www.m-tix.com.au | (03) 9685 5111
May 5-15, 2010
$40 - $55
www.sydneytheatre.org.au | (02) 9250 1999