Darebin Underworld - photo by Gregory LorenzuttiUnderworld begins with a similar scope to that of 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, while Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece started with the dawn of man, here performers Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen begin with the dawn of life.

Among the plastic detritus strewn over the performance space, they slowly move and flop, primitive creatures crawling up onto land for the first time. Their behaviour evolves, eventually grabbing a piece of bone each to wield as a tool.

The parallels with 2001 continue with an audacious jump-cut – although, instead of bone to space vessel, they change theirs into phones and in an instance we’re in the present day.

Sarah and Rebecca are joined on-stage by Claire Leske and Louella Hogan. From here we get a camping trip as if filmed by David Cronenberg. There’s a visceral quality to everything – hasty butchering, tent building, rave dancing – as they explore and expose an inherent brutality in how humans interact with the natural world.

What constitutes the set is manipulated anonymously – plastic being dragged from behind the far rear curtain, objects moving via ropes controlled from behind the audience. It strengthens the idea that as much as the quartet tries to wrest control of their environment, it will ultimately be beyond their reach.

There’s no dialogue, only Andrew Wilson’s lovely sound design throughout. Combined with the show’s physicality, intelligence, and humour, it makes for fascinating fare.

Main Hall – Northcote Town Hall, 189 High Street, Northcote
Performance: Friday 1 September 2017 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 9 September 2017
Information and Bookings: www.darebinarts.com.au

Image: Underworld – photo by Gregory Lorenzutti

Review: David Collins