Initially debuting at Metro Arts in 2011, Motherboard Productions’s 지하 Underground has acquired a legendary reputation in recent years. Unsurprisingly, given there isn’t a production in the world quite like it.
A mammoth undertaking, Underground finds director Jeremy Neideck and collaborators building an entire venue (in the style of a Korean speak-easy bar, no less) to tell a fantastical story of love, loss, discovery and community featuring live music, free watermelon and nightclub religion. In addition to its debut Metro Arts season, the work has also previously been aired as part of 2012’s Brisbane Festival – wherein an entire venue was constructed from old packing crates in a vacant West End parking lot.
In honesty, Underground’s World Theatre Festival iteration doesn’t quite scale the heights of its previous productions.
While M'ck McKeague’s exhaustively comprehensive site design is once again deserving of unending praise (a review will simply never do justice to the transformational scope of McKeague’s work), Underground’s home within Brisbane Powerhouse’s Turbine Studio is the first time it’s felt like a theatre work instead of an entire living, breathing venue. It lacks the dank, lived-in claustrophobia of either Metro Arts’ Basement or Brisbane Festival’s makeshift venue.
Furthermore, there are some shortcomings to the work that really should have been remedied by now. Punctuated by a number of original songs, Underground’s otherwise stellar live music component has always been hampered by lyrics that seem awkward and half-baked. Some may claim that is an aesthetic choice (in keeping with the rough-hewn charm of the show) – but given that the technical performances and melodies are quite professionally-crafted, that’s not an excuse that holds much water. And, after three years, it’s annoying that it’s still an issue.
Still, these are things that will only really be noticed by those who have seen the work before (or, being more honest, those who are finicky theatre critic types). If you haven’t seen the work before or are less inclined to nitpick, 지하 Underground will absolutely blow you away, regardless. It combines an imminently entertaining story well-told (tears and laughs are inevitable) with an almost suffocatingly colourful and entertaining physical world of culture and collision with which you get to physically interact and enjoy. Again, there’s nothing quite like it.
Even if you don’t like the sound of it from this review, I’d still recommend you go see it. It’s simply too beautifully unusual to be ignored.
Motherboard Productions presents
by Jeremy Neideck and Nathan Stoneham
Director Jeremy Neideck
Venue: Turbine Studio | Brisbane Powerhouse
Dates: 12 – 23 Feb, 2014
Tickets: $35 – $30
Part of WTF 2014