Optus Playhouse (Sydney Dance Company)


Underland represents a bleak look at the future, set after an apocalypse. “Think of it as ‘Mad Max’ meets ‘Alice in Wonderland’,” says choreographer Stephen Petronio an accurate insight to the evening ahead. The dancing, as always with this company, is of a very high standard, with the dancers using amazing amounts of energy and fully abandoning themselves to the movement. Tracey Carrodus is always exquisite to watch and meets expectations in this production. Wakako Asano is another outstanding talent to shine through the evening. Although diverse in their looks, the whole company complement each other throughout the work.

The soundtrack as a whole is effective, and fits the theme of the piece. However, if anyone in the audience is easily offended, the track Stagger Lee involves explicit language, as much Nick Cave music is prone to do.

The costumes by Tara Subkoff, New York fashion designer of fashion label ‘Imitation of Christ’ are effective, but not all original. The use of colourful tutus with bikini tops works well, but the mismatched army attire with shredded red fabric doesn’t inspire. The small black costumes at the start are effective, but the dresses in the piece ‘The Ship Song’ are most unflattering. Overall however, the costumes match the theme of the piece.

The stage is completely bare, with no wings, and has a huge multimedia screen as the backdrop. This screen is used effectively throughout the piece. Images such as mushroom clouds, are relevant to the piece, but uninspiring in their lack of originality. The hanging of Tracey Carrodus from the ceiling, while she does tricks, is different and interesting, but is not long enough to have any impact.

The highlight of the show is the very beginning, where we see a male dancer climbing downwards on a huge net. This is very effective, and captures the audience’s attention immediately. Unfortunately, the opening is the only original part of the show. Although the publicity surrounding the piece promotes it as an innovative and original work, there is little in the choreography that has not been done before in the last 20 years or more.

At the end of the evening many in the audience were obviously delighted with what they had witnessed, but others of us felt the hype was greater than the substance.

— Tamsin Sutherland
(Performance seen: Tue 17th June 2003)