27 Apr

As a writer, one might assume I have a deep love for language (though, being a theatre reviewer, one might expect that love to be expressed in the form of a disturbing fetish for cliché, banality and formulaic structure.)

But it’s not all about language. One of the glories of theatre is that it combines language with physicality. There aren’t just words, there are bodies saying those words. And what those bodies do as they say the words, and what they do when they’re not saying the words, produces a splendid complexity. (I love that in theatre a character can say how much she adores her husband at the very moment she is seen making love to someone else.)

What happens when language is taken out of theatre? (It’s worth noting, that in the rehearsal room of new work, the most common alteration to the text is the cut: I don’t need those words, says an actor, to present that emotion.) What happens in a performance when movement is privileged? What happens is a beautiful reminder of physicality: its richness, its expressiveness, its significance.

That’s what Mortel is. This 60 minute piece of physical theatre is a paean to the body; its energy, its strength, its beauty.

Directed magnificently by Steven Ljubović and performed by a gifted cast (Phoebe Atkinson, Gemma Burwell, Abbey Dimech, Giani Leon, Meg Hyeronimus, Levi Kenway, Aiden Morris, Bella Ridgway, and Shannon Thomas) Mortel highlights the experience of embodiment, of what it is to be a body. This might seem a strange thing for me to assert, but as Wittgenstein suggested “The human body is the best picture of the human soul”. Witnessing the extraordinary things the body can do is a reminder of possibility, of potential, of the flame that burns within us (which I think is a pretty passable definition of the ineffable entity that is the soul.)

It’s probably not accurate to call Mortel a dance work, but the cast interact beautifully with Kieran Camejo’s evocative and ingeniously varied soundscape. And with the space lit magically by Clare Sheridan, Ljubović creates powerful images, ones of passionate interactions and of poignant isolation. Both the initial and concluding tableaux are deeply moving expressions of the essence of individuality, that blessing and burden shared by us all.

Paul Gilchrist

Mortel directed by Steven Ljubović

Presented by Merak in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre

At KXT on Broadway until April 29

Image by Abraham de Souza

One Response to “Mortel”

  1. Susan Ljubovic April 27, 2023 at 3:43 am #

    I couldn’t not be any prouder of Steven in what he has accomplished in the making of the show . The cast just amazing . I true hope in the future to see more shows like this .
    Congratulations one and all on amazing work

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