Melbourne Festival 2016: THE SECRET NOISE

Hidden music is brought to light, movement and sound

By Joana Simmons

In our world full of commercial pop music all sounding the same (looking at you, Taylor Swift) we are rarely challenged with sounds that are out of the ordinary. Sydney-based company Ensemble Offspring brings us The Secret Noise as part of the esteemed Melbourne Festival, with concept and composition by Damien Ricketson, and direction by Carlos Gomes. In a performance that sits somewhere between music, dance and installation, the multi-talented cast of seven (including Narelle Benjamin, Katherine Cogill, Katia Molino, Jason Noble, Claire Edwardes and Bree van Reyk) creates a world full of secret music; sounds that have slipped under the rug.

The Secret Noise.jpg

The beginning of the performance is small pop-up scenes and installations around the North Melbourne Town Hall where we have intimate exchanges with the performers. They take our drawings we coloured in upon arrival, and use them as inspiration for their contortion or composition. It’s a wonderful connection and exchange that gives each individual something different – not “we are performing this for everyone”, but “this is just for YOU.” The audience roams between these, and gathers in their seats. For the next hour, the cast plays a range of instruments – some of which I don’t know the name – but all make interesting sounds. There’s sacred forms of ceremonial music, legally extinguished compositions, a DJ playing an LP backwards, love songs and my favourite, whirling different tubes and pipes around really fast like helicopters that made interesting bird-like wind sounds. Strong fluid and flexible contemporary dancers integrate the interesting sounds and music to bring the whole thing together. Their incredible strength, technique and stamina captivates us.

The well-designed lighting (Fausto Brusamolino) gives the intimate installations at the start a special glow, and lights the full performance in a way that makes us feel like we are in a secret world. The costumes are simple and effective. I did find it difficult to see sometimes, as we were all sitting on the same level and some of the dance was on the floor or down one side of the room, so if you are vertically challenged, try and find a spot close to the front, but there is still plenty to listen to if you can’t see.

It is unclear what the journey of the show is, if there is one, but the skill level is so high and varied that is pay-off enough. It’s one of those performances where it resonates as something different with everyone: some moments weren’t quite my cup of tea but there were many that were. Challenge yourselves to explore something brilliantly different, The Secret Noise is defying genres and discovering magical creative gems for audiences of all ages to share and enjoy.

The Secret Noise was performed as part of the 2016 Melbourne Festival.
14-15 October
North Melbourne Town Hall