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Mortal Engine
Written by Susannah Radford   
Published on Tuesday, 19 August 2008

AS A NEW ZEALANDER, it's not often I thank God for Australians, but I do thank God for the Australian dance company Chunky Move.  I've been waiting for a show that would take my breath away, and I didn't think I was going to experience it this Festival.  Then I saw Mortal Engine.

I sat on the edge of my seat, leaning slowly forward as if attempting to touch the beauty and grotesqueness before me.  Mortal Engine is only an hour long - but during this hour you get a glimpse of thrilling and heretofore hidden worlds of energy.  In a show that mixes movement and technology, motion begets light and sound; kinetic energy within and without the body is first given visibility, then weight and substance.

In combination with the light and sound each motion sequence explores a different energy.  Some are viscous, like Velcro, and the bodies require real effort of movement to separate from their environment and each other.  In subsequent interactions kinetic energy is shaved off like little flakes, in yet others it pulses ominously back and forth around the body, like swarms of cockroaches. 

What's really innovative is the way the choreography informs and directs the light, the relationship between the body and technology - and at its most primal, just how seductive and mesmerising light and sound are. 

Paralleling the saturation of technology and the media, there are times when the performance reaches sensory overload; the amount of sound and light thrown at you is overwhelming and at times sickening.  The noise can be piercing and the shapes nightmarish; it really shakes you up.  And yet in one of the latter sequences, bodies are developed in sepia light.  It's the Kodak moment, like a visual birth, a film being developed; the light is being given substance and the bodies give birth to dancers, who up to this point work more as vessels to project the technology through.

In contrast to the Tattoo fireworks that thunder through our skies on a nightly basis during the festival, the end of this piece seems a more sophisticated light show - a construct which breaks down light to its purest geometric forms.  Into this glow walks one figure; against this green frame the human form is a revelation.  Watching this is like discovering the beauty of da Vinci's The Vitruvian Man for the first time.  In these lines of light, the three dimensional human form is fragile, yet forceful and more comprehensive than anything technology can offer.  Mortality momentarily stands solid against kinetic, fleeting light.  It's the most breathtaking moment of all in a show that brims with stunning images.


Like the sound of the show?  Want to get tickets?  Here's how...  First, read our introduction to the International Festival box offices for background information.  Then check our page on Edinburgh Playhouse for a run-down of all purchasing options for this venue.


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