Mortal Engine is a contemporary dance performance that poignantly exemplifies the blah blah blah of the human condition.
Mortal Engine is a laser light show and visual feast that will give you obesity of the eyeballs from having so much eyecandy.
Mortal Engine is an interactive ground breaking tour-de-force that will snap you out of existential malaise and make you feel something worthy of numerous exclamation marks!!!
Not that I want to oversell it, I strongly recommend this show to everyone with a pulse. If you’re thinking of seeing the show, there’s no harm in checking out the clip on youtube first. http://goo.gl/NWdkI – I saw this years ago, and it’s what drove me to want to see the work in person, and I was not disappointed in the least. If you’d like a wordy synopsis, the programme for the show is totally on the money in describing the intent and vision of the show. I’m not going to compete by trying to summarise it for you in more eloquent prose, nor offer lofty metaphorical descriptions of a show as abstract and ambitious as this.
I can only offer a handful of impressions, and give you an idea of how I experienced the show, which is handy, because having to try to summarise what I saw last night from an objective point of view would be thoroughly exhausting I’m sure.
There are “lasers”.
The show is possibly recognised first and foremost for its remarkable use of technology. While the technology is certainly cutting edge and complex, its use is remarkable for different reasons. It’s new, but it’s not really about novelty. My inner geek had plenty to analyse and contemplate from a practical and technological “how did they do that?!” perspective, though the actual content of the show, the powerful performances of the dancers, and the mature use of tech as an extension of the piece rather than a distraction, had a very real emotional impact.
The exploration of archetypal binaries harks back to the beginning of storytelling itself, and somehow the potentially complicating or distracting technological layers of this show seem like a natural and seamless progression from centuries old shadow puppetry. Throughout the show, the `wow!’ defeated my `how?’ and there were several moments where my analytical mind gave way to what could have been glimpses of enlightenment.
I’ll confess I struggle with contemporary dance as a genre. I’ve seen enough shows to identify what I perceive as a sometimes self indulgent, pseudo high-brow, `emperor’s new clothes’ quality which often leaves me feeling bewildered during the performance, and alienated in the forced-polite chit chat after the show. I find many contemporary dance works are vague for the sake of being vague, and in the absence of narrative, or even a strong theme, audiences are gently urged to conclude `this is art’, and gloss over the hefty ticket price and dashed hopes of actually being emotionally engaged by a performance. This is not one of those shows. Mortal Engine is a work that engages the mind, delights and challenges the senses, and has a strong emotional architecture. Part dance performance, part technology showcase, and part journey to the centre of the universe, Chunky Move have performed technological and artistic alchemy here, and I just want to tell everyone about it. The energy of the performers matches the intense audio-visual assault, and in doing so adds a depth and subtlety that gives a strong anchor to something very human and real.
There’s powerful audio.
The soundtrack is stark and powerful, and is not so much a `layer’ of the piece, as it is a central performer. The audio has been engineered with some heavy duty equipment to make this a show that you physically feel as well as hear, and I hope the QPAC building has strong foundations, as I’m sure they were tested last night! The music and sound design complement each other and the visual & performance aspects beautifully, although there are occasional instances where the contrast in volume and mood is a bit like a poke in the ear with a sharp stick. This is not lazy psychedelia or an introduction to new media performance for tourists.
The show is tasteful, meticulously well thought out, and flexible enough to allow genuine nuance from some very talented physical performers. Touching and powerful moments that will stay with me include: incredible projected shadows and malevolent crawling entities, a virtual wall made of virtual glue, and feeling momentarily separate from the entire audience inside a cubby house of laser cut smoke.
There are parts of the show where you’re experiencing pure mathematics; sine waves of various amplitudes and frequencies have a one-to-one relationship with the lasers and you literally get to see and feel some incredible sounds. It’s this mathematical quality that made me wonder on some level if I was witnessing in actuality what happens when you divide by zero. Combined with the raw universal human emotion of the performers… and the incredible visuals… it was so overwhelmingly RAD it has defeated my vocabulary, but I don’t mind in the least. Thinking about this show makes me smile.
Mortal Engine represents an exciting milestone in live performance, and will not merely spark imaginations for future shows using new media, it will set them ablaze. Go see it.