Reviews, Stage, Theatre

Lake Disappointment review (Carriageworks, Sydney)

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Lake Disappointment, written by Lachlan Philpott and Luke Mullins, is perhaps the most introspective piece of theatre to appear on a Sydney stage this year, but it takes place in one of the city’s biggest theatrical performance spaces.

That’s just one of the many seemingly dichotomous elements at play in this intriguing new one-man play about a man who’s made his career as a body double for a famous Hollywood star. It delves deeply into its central character’s inner world — even if he doesn’t exactly invite that kind of interrogation — and explores how that determines his place in the wider world (and vice versa).

The unnamed double, played by Mullins, is currently on a shoot at the remote Lake Disappointment, for a film called “Lake Disappointment”. He doubles for an actor called Kane and, although the pair have been working together constantly for many years now, this film is tipped to be Kane’s McConnaisance moment.

It is the double’s duty to be the body for Kane on extended shoots and to perform menial tasks — acting with his hands for close-ups or standing in the middle of a lake for a wide, helicopter shot — as well as replicating Kane’s looks, movements and spirit as closely as possible. But it soon becomes clear that his constant striving to be more “like Kane” is particularly damaging.

Mullins and Philpott have written a surreal and often very funny examination of ego and how we view our own bodies and minds. It’s an accomplished work which, while ponderous and leisurely paced, is packed with emotional action.

Mullins’ performance is very small, for the most part, inviting the audience to lean in. He performs with a microphone, allowing the actor to speak very softly and conversationally. It’s an incredibly nuanced performance — almost filmic in its physical and vocal details — and one of the strongest I’ve seen all year.

You’re left with the impression that you really don’t know this man at all after spending a little over an hour with him. But that’s pretty appropriate considering he barely seems to know himself.

This is a visually bold, but often very simple, production by director Janice Muller, which makes spectacular and intelligent use of the space to give voice to a person who has become very small and diminished by their lot in life. I don’t want to give anything away in terms of how the physical aspects of the production are managed, because there are some stunning surprises in there. But there’s a brilliant synergy between all the production elements: Michael Hankin’s set, Matt Cox’s lighting and James Brown’s sound design and compositions. They’re not only in step, but support one another beautifully.

It’s a lucky thing that this play found its home at Carriageworks. It really is an exciting work that mightn’t have found a venue with the requisite scale and daring anywhere else in Sydney.

[box]Lake Disappointment is at Carriageworks, Sydney until this Saturday, April 23. Featured image by James Brown[/box]

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