Venue: KXT on Broadway (Ultimo NSW), Apr 25 – 29, 2023
Director: Steven Ljubović
Cast: Phoebe Atkinson, Gemma Burwell, Abbey Dimech, Giani Leon, Meg Hyeronimus, Levi Kenway, Aiden Morris, Bella Ridgway, Shannon Thomas
Images by Abraham de Souza
Nine beings emerge from their cocoons, flesh and bone perfectly formed, all muscles ready to fire. Mortel is a work of physical theatre that takes from dance traditions, from experimental art and from performance training, manifesting in a presentation that ranges from the obscure to the obvious, from beautiful to awkward.
Directed by Steven Ljubović, Mortel has a tendency to feel derivative, in a style that is perhaps too demanding of an artist’s capacity for originality. Whether drawing from something more distinct like Bob Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug” or other elements that simply feel instinctively familiar, the staging never delivers much that is truly inventive. It is however, a show that is often captivating, with an evocative and sensual sound design by Kieran Camejo that provides a basis for our emotions to engage. Lights by Clare Sheridan are gently rendered, to best support, and flatter, the dynamic activity taking place.
Performers are dressed exquisitely by Ljubović, in shades and shapes that nod to contemporary pop culture and to the world of fashion. The cast of nine is incredibly cohesive, perfectly well-rehearsed and indefatigably focused, on what they mean to achieve as individuals and as a singular pulsatory organism. The work may not require extraordinary athleticism or technical proficiency, but their demonstration of strength and precision, along with their boundless dedication, is a joy to behold.
There is nothing that quite parallels the enthusiasm for living a good life that emerges, from the unremitting meditations on the nature and inevitability of death.