By Samuel J. Cox
Presented as part of the Black Swan Lab (where seasoned and emerging artists collaborate), our State Theatre Company (which only just performed Shakespeare in the main theatre above) is performing the world premiere of a new Australian work from award-winning playwright Aidan Fennessy.
Billed as a taut, psychological thriller, the 90-minute performance took time to warm up (both the actors and the plot), but eventually had me on the edge of my seat. I haven’t been left this excited since Mum last took me to Claremont Quarter with her AMEX.
When David Rail, (played by Kenneth Ransom [who starred in 2013’s ‘The Mother f**ker with the Hat’]) awakes in an eerily designed asylum, he is suffering from amnesia. Damage to his hippocampus has impaired his short-term memory, which resets every few minutes. Forensic Psychologist Alice Lowe (Marthe Rovik) works with him in his agitated and confused state to unpack his brain and determine how he came to be in this state. As they play out the same scene over and over, Lowe slowly draws the truth out, and seeks to determine means, motive, and opportunity.
While never shown, everything centres on the titular location, and the brutal crime that has occurred there. Strong, convincing performances by both actors and a well written script will have you grappling with, and second-guessing, this whodunit.
The set (India Mehta), script and sound (Brett Smith) harmonise to curate a sinister, claustrophobic and unnerving atmosphere that an intermission would interrupt and undo. Fennessey cleverly draws upon American legend Edgar Allan Poe to strengthen his own work, and partners discussions of guilt and remorse with those on truth, logic, language and belief.
One setting, one act, two performers; this was great theatre.
‘The House on The Lake’ runs until June 22.