Underbelly Arts Unfolded

Jacqui Dent

SYDNEY FRINGE: A showcase of performances from this year's Underbelly Arts Festival, which took place on Cockatoo Island in July.
Underbelly Arts Unfolded
It could be argued that this review will be of absolutely no benefit to you, given that this show was a once-only occurrence. Underbelly Arts Unfolded was a Sydney Fringe showcase of the one-day performing arts festival, Underbelly Arts, held on Cockatoo Island in July. I took away many things from this showcase but the most important thing of all was this: I should have gone to Cockatoo Island.

Let me break it down for you. First up we had Applespiel – a comedy troupe performing a reading of an interview with John Mayer published in Playboy magazine. Funny, original, irreverent, the performance was diminished only by the fact that only two out of the eight members of Applespiel were present. If the performance of the remaining two was anything to go by, then the addition of six others of equal skill would surely have been something to be seen. Conclusion: I should have gone to Underbelly Arts.

Next we had a video of a performance art piece by Justin Shoulder inhabiting the character of V. V is a large, feathery magician-type creature that somehow manages to be equal parts cuddly and sinister. The non-narrative nature of this performance admittedly left me feeling a little baffled. There can be no question the resounding heart beat of its soundtrack, the smoke, lights and general air of wonderment would have been far more powerful in the large warehouse space in which it was originally filmed. Conclusion: I should have gone to Underbelly Arts.

Then we come to Whale Chorus. I cannot fault this performance in any way. It takes a good deal of talent to portray awkwardness onstage without inspiring similar emotions in your audience. Combine that with a celery-stick sword fight sequence and you’ve got yourself one hell of a show. Yet if you examine the program of the Underbelly Arts Festival notice that Whale Chorus were billed for a good 45 minutes rather than the 20-odd minutes we were allowed at the Seymour Centre. Conclusion: I should have gone to Underbelly Arts.

The final performance of the evening came from Murasaki Penguin (dancer Anna Kuroda and sound and media artist David Kirkpatrick). Kuroda’s performance was Skyped live from Japan and, whether by accident or design, was a revelation. Kuroda is an entrancing and graceful mover, perfectly reflecting, as she describes it, ‘the shimmering of water’ with her body. This in itself is a hypnotic visual experience but when captured by Skype cam it became incredible, a spectacle of ghost-like blurred and flickering movement that was breathtaking. For this alone I cannot complain at having missed the festival. As for the others, I have learnt my lesson and will know for next time. Bring on Underbelly Arts 2012.

Underbelly Arts Unfolded
Seymour Sound Lounge, The Seymour Centre
September 22

The Sydney Fringe
September 9 – October 2

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Jacqui Dent is an emerging writer living in Sydney. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Channelling and on ABC Radio National. Read more at www.jacquident.net and find her on Twitter @jacquident.