Melbourne Fringe 2016: UNDERTONE

Musical interaction meets circus innovation

By Myron My

Produced by Black Carnation Productions, Undertone is a circus show that – while presenting some impressive tricks and laughs – also explores the relationship between the body and sound. With a live electronic score, it pushes the boundaries of what circus can be, creating a different show at every performance.

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There is a strong physical demand throughout Undertone, that the four performers make seem effortless as they jump through the air, climb on each other and fling their bodies across and under tables. Due to the concentration and focus of these tricks, the performers have also included a good dose of clowning throughout. Under the direction of Avan Whaite, this allows them to break the tension so the audience can breathe calmly, and for their personalities to come through and invite us to create a bond with them.

There are a few mishaps with certain tricks on the night I attended, and it seems at times that while the set-up is there, the follow-through isn’t always a success. However, what does work, and really takes my breath away is the work on the Chinese pole, which is used in various ways, with some acts I have not seen before in circus. Due to the design of the Melba Spiegeltent, you get to see the show from a more intimate viewpoint and acts like the balancing act on rolling tubes become extremely nail-biting, as you see just how near to the edge they roll.

Adding to the “danger” element of Undertone, the electronic soundtrack for the show created by musical director Zoltan Fesco uses live triggering from the performance itself for the audio delights we hear. In doing so, Fesco and the performers are constantly unaware of what could happen next and this unique soundscaping allows for numerous moments of surprise for the audience, the performers and the composer himself.

Undertone may not have the strongest individual acts, but it is one of the more innovative circus shows I’ve seen. With the growing number of circus coming through Melbourne, it’s always great to have your expectations of this art form challenged, and that is where Black Carnation Productions more than excel.

Venue: The Melba Spiegelent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood, 3066
Season: Until 25 September | Sat – Sun 8.30pm, Sun 3:00pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $29 Full | $24 Conc | $22 Group 6+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival 

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