What does a pop-up Korean speakeasy nestled surreptitiously inside a business carpark in Brisbane's West End look like? Attend Underground as part of Brisbane Festival's Under the Radar program and you can find out.
First of all, it's bigger than expected inside, a massive shed lined with fishing net and walled with newspaper, closed off on two sides by a couple of shipping containers. Everywhere there is colour, the makeshift room packed with knick knacks, pictures, streamers and flashing lights. There is an eclectic mix of old armchairs and bean bags provided as audience seating, a bar in one corner, a stage in the other and a high wooden construction filled with disco balls and fairy lights up the back. Before the show begins, the audience is invited to grab a "Korean speciality" drink and take in their surroundings. Overhead hangs a giant, morose-looking cardboard whale, to the right, an old stationary exercise bike is strapped on top of a filing cabinet, a microphone stand waiting in front of it. It's hard to tell what the show is going to be about, but the setting is incredible.
Mix what you've seen of Korean pop on SBS with a fair whack of that Australian self-deprecating humour and you get the performance of Underground. Before the show begins, the cast wander the room, talking with each other, welcoming audience members, searching for a lost pianist. They are so earnest that it's easy to buy into their characters before the performance has even begun, and having charmed their way into the hearts of the audience from the get go, it is all fun from there on in.
There are many different segments to the actual performance, the main following the story of the Coconut Princess and her journeys through the world with her First Love and a swarthy sailor and into The City. This is broken up by a number of song and dance routines, and the audience favourite "Watermelon Party" which, exactly as it sounds, involves everyone taking a five minute break to eat some watermelon.
The technical aspects of this show really shine. The lighting of the space is really remarkable, and like all the other technical elements, subtle and cleverly placed in the performance. What appears as a rather haphazardly put together show is quite complexly designed and the ease with which crew and cast control this is brilliant.
Underground is designed to provide a really good night out, and it achieves that wholeheartedly. It is joyful, fun and invigorating, true escapism capped off with a whole lot of glitter and confetti. Underground is a definite must see in this year's Brisbane Festival.
Motherboard Productions presents
with Brisbane Festival and QUT
Dates: 11 - 29 September
Venue: Absoe Carpark, 51 Mollison Street, West End