Mortel - KXT on Broadway (NSW)
Presented by Merak Physical Theatre. Directed by Steven Ljubović.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
KXT on Broadway, Ultimo Until 29th April
- A palette cleanser to the countless reiterations of the same jukebox musical, and a marvellous debut from MERAK -
The question of being mortal is at the forefront of any area of psychological thinking. The question of “Why?” pervades even the smartest of minds. Thankfully, it makes for the best art. The debut production of Mortel from Sydney’s newest physical theatre company, MERAK, focuses on the phenomenon of life in nine stages as told through one body of performers.
Director Steven Ljubović crafts a captivating and visually stunning performance in the new KXT space. Utilising their performers, Phoebe Atkinson, Gemma Burwell, Abbey Dimech, Giani Leon, Meg Hyeronimus, Levi Kenway, Aiden Morris, Bella Ridgway and Shannon Thomas like an artist paints with their brush. Upon entering the space, Clare Sheridan’s red hued lighting coupled with Kieran Camejo’s low humming soundscape focuses the audience to nine strictly taught sacks, creating piercing lines in space that stretch to the black corners of the theatre.
Photos by Abraham de Souza
From the sacks slowly emerge our performers dressed in plain fabric as they begin, like us all, at the first stages of life. Whilst each performer starts off the show’s journey individually, it’s inherently clear throughout their sense of connection as each is paired for different aspects of the show to perform lifts, weight balances and moments of intimacy and exhilaration.
Without the use of language, our job as the audience is to interpret the stages of life throughout the performance. Some will be more obvious than others, for those less inclined to read into expressive art. Some are magically mysterious to draw you in and make you question where we are in space and time. Mortel isn’t inherently a dance work, nor is it a straightforward piece of experimental theatre, but it skillfully lands somewhere in the middle. Questions about what it is to be a body in the world and endure life’s stages - love, loss, childlike wonder, the dreaded beep test and ultimately death.
Ljubović’s production design creates moments of frozen tableaux that appreciate the human body, as well as its flaws and claustrophobic tendencies. The performers, gifted as they are, commit to each movement, moments of synchronicity and pieces of language they’re communicating with through their bodies.
Mortel is an evening of art in physical theatre form, a palette cleanser to the countless reiterations of the same jukebox musical, and a marvellous debut from MERAK. Take a chance on something new, open yourself up to its oddities and you may just be surprised.
Director: Steven Ljubović
Lighting Designer / Operator: Clare Sheridan
Sound designer: Kieran Camejo
Production Design: Steven Ljubović
Producer: Jane Angharad
Cast Phoebe Atkinson, Gemma Burwell, Abbey Dimech, Giani Leon, Meg Hyeronimus, Levi Kenway, Aiden Morris, Bella Ridgway, Shannon Thomas