Coming in from the dreary Sydney drizzle, the stark white tent of Polar Force at first became almost like a refuge from the uncertain weather outside. Directed upon entry to remove our shoes, the audience was tunnelled into a space lined by white chairs soaked in cold, dim lighting, with a curious set of industrial equipment used as bespoke instruments – pipes, hoses and wires that stretched out in the middle of the tent as designed by Nick Roux and co-Director Eugene Ughetti. All around, waves lapped at its walls through an eight-channel recording that enveloped the entire space. The field recordings by Philip Samartzis were incredibly rich and high quality, and immersed spectators spectacularly within the environment.

Polar Force

Polar Force. Photo © Bryony Jackson.

Ughetti and Matthias Schack-Arnott seemed more like researchers than percussionists, with sound as consequential to their arctic experimentation. Their first act was suspending two large shards of ice in water – the sounds of cracks and bubbles as they melted were amplified, resonating throughout the space. An incredible sound system made this a physical experience as well,...