Chunky Move’s vibrant Mortal Engine came to the Southbank Centre this weekend, in a show that utilised some very exciting technical innovations, but seemed to lack the same innovative quality in the movement. Director and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and his impressive team of sound and light artists delivered a performance that I had definitely never experienced before, and now I’m left with the question: what will they do next?

Obarzanek describes Mortal Engine in the programme notes as a “dance-video-music-laser performance using movement-and-sound-responsive projections”. It combines his own choreography with video and laser images by Robin Fox and the jarring soundscape of Ben Frost. To combine these components, Mortal Engine uses unique software designed by Frieder Weiss. His interactive systems allow each of these artists’ input to communicate and affect each other in real time. Sound, light and video all respond to the movement of the dancers, who in turn respond to cues and rhythms both within their group and also from the sound and light. This concept of a unique and live show is not a new one, but with Weiss’ software, the opportunity for interaction expands tenfold, and the results were very interesting.

Immediately Mortal Engine draws you into a world in constant unrest. The performance space is an intricate raked stage that better displays the video projections, and while the dance mainly happens on this sloped platform, there are also two panels downstage that rise to form a wall for projection during some sections. This raking made it easier to see the movement-responsive projections, but it also gave the whole performance an isolated and restrained edge; as if we were looking down at the performers through a microscope.

The sound was particularly loud and abrasive, and often carried a defining thump of a rhythm for the dancers. Often I felt the sound, combined with the sporadic and forceful video projections, balanced uneasily between being captivating and just becoming sensory overload. Unfortunately I then lost the dancing amidst all the other elements of the work. The dancers were undoubtedly virtuosic, and they certainly exhibited their flexibility, but I found myself more engaged with the dancing that had a stronger sense of marriage between all of the artistic components, instead of each element competing for attention.

One of my favourite segments was when two dancers moved against one of the walls, and their movement triggered a weighted stretching sound, like semi-melted rubber, while the video recorded their motion with a dark negative image of their bodies. This moment appealed to me because each element was equally present, and had a singular effect that aligned to communicate the idea of this weighted substance. The dancers were impacted by the sound they created, and the video clarified this impact. Another moment I enjoyed was the effect of creating a tunnel with lasers, where audience and dancers were within this “tunnel”. I enjoyed the feeling that I was suddenly in the same space as the dancers – an inclusion that made me more aware of the space we shared, rather than the normal audience-performer relationship I was used to.

Overall, Chunky Move’s Mortal Engine was an exciting experiment into the ways that movement, video and sound can interact live in performance. While not always on point, when it was Mortal Engine was fantastic and intriguing. However, when the complexity misaligned each component, it became a loud and overwhelming muddle. This Australian group has a lot to offer, and I’m intent to see the evolution of this thrilling combination of dance and technology.