by Luke Mullins and Lachlan Philpott
Sydney Theatre Award nominations for:
Best New Australian Work, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Sound Design, Best Lighting Design (winner)
Director: Janice Muller
Compostion & Sound Design: James Brown
Lighting Design: Matt Cox
Stage & Costume Design: Michael Hankin
Associate Stage & Costume: Charlie Edward-Davis
Projection: James Brown
Stage Manager: Jennifer Parsonage
Production Manager: Cat Studley
"Do anything to secure a ticket. It is the most complete and unexpected work of theatre I’ve seen in a long time." StageNoise
**** beautifully performed and powerfully staged .... drop what you are doing in order to see this" SMH
***** "a seriously smart, rigorously planned piece of writing and theatre, top to bottom." Timeout
*****"Luke Mullins is an eminent performer" The Brag
Photos: James Brown
FULL REVIEWS BELOW OR FOLLOW LINKS TO ORIGINAL
Sydney Morning Herald, Jason Blake
Lake Disappointment review: Modern Narcissus sees double in must-see theatre
Sydney Morning Herald
April 21, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Beautifully performed and powerfully staged, this is the most intriguing work of theatre in Sydney at the moment. You have until Saturday to see it. Co-written by Lachlan Philpott and its performer Luke Mullins, Lake Disappointment entangles the audience in the inner monologue of a body double fulfilling his piecemeal role in a movie production while anxiously awaiting his famous doppelganger Kane to fly in.
We meet our nameless double standing in the lake, arms akimbo. He's far from disappointed at this stage. In fact, he's in his element, relishing his moment in the sun while a camera crew in a helicopter overhead captures long shots.
Unable to move, our modern Narcissus daydreams and talks, dwelling obsessively on his relationship with Kane and on what he thinks is their professional symbiosis. He recalls his professional highs (a doubles convention in Atlanta, for example) and lows ("Briefcase Bomb 2 going straight to DVD"). He fixates on the enviably muscular hands of a gas station attendant, the size of his own biceps and the availability of local gymnasiums. He ponders gnomic comments from Kane's co-star Linda Hunt. "I googled her," the double confesses. "She must be good. She won an Oscar. She beat Cher."
But as the days tick by and Kane continues to be a no-show, his grip on the reality of his situation starts to loosen. Without the reflecting surface that is Kane, the double is confronted by the idea he has no identity of his own.
Softly-spoken, especially at first, and physically precise, Mullins draws the audience into the shimmering shallows of the double's world in a production using the close-miking of its performer to create a sense of psychological intimacy in the unnerving black void of Bay 17. Aided by dramatic spotlighting (Matt Cox) and a cinematic sound design (James Brown), director Janice Muller expertly regulates tempo, tension and release.
Once again, you have until Saturday. Drop what you need to in order to see this.
Posted on April 25 2016
When Lake Disappointment returns or is produced elsewhere – and it has to be – do anything to secure a ticket. It is the most complete and unexpected work of theatre I’ve seen in a long time and it was a privilegeto see it.
Written by Lachlan Philpott and its solo performer Luke Mullins, and directed by Janice Muller, Lake Disappointment is both the place and the title of the movie being made that’s starring an elusive superstar named Kane. This information is imparted by his body double (Mullins) who is posed motionless, arms spread wide, freezing in the chill water of the lake, waiting, waiting, waiting. Such is the lot of the one who stands in for the real thing. He is able, but he is not Kane.
The man never does share his name with the audience in the 50 minutes during which he smugly reveals much (deliberately and otherwise) about his arcane occupation of being someone else in their absence. Without seeming to realise it, he occupies a void – and this is echoed in the black and cavernous setting of the huge chamber where spears of light skewer him to the spot and the only colour is provided by the soundscape. (Set Michael Hankin, lighting Matt Cox, sound design and compositions: James Brown.)
Mullins wears a mic and it enables him to maintain a sotto voce conversation with each member of the audience. He imparts very important confidential tidbits or muses almost to himself on the vagaries of Kane’s schedule (he is due to arrive at any moment and will of course contact his buddy immediately).
As time and the demands on his body parts go on (he is an expert with a cup and saucer and was a hand modelbefore going into movies) the man’s confidence and sense of self almost visibly inflate. But Kane is a continuing no-show and other possibilities begin to rise like spectres in the darkness of his imagination. And in the imaginations of the audience too: Lake Disappointment is not only intensely fascinating but also disquieting too.
The synergy between all the production’s elements is remarkable. Director Janice Muller maintains clarity and pace and a remarkable sense of drama even as Luke Mullins conveys the depths of ordinariness and utter dreariness of the man. His is yet another brilliant performance in a career already littered with them. Lachlan Philpott also adds another fine credit to his already heavily laden biog.
I wish I could say “recommended” but it’s over. Thanks to Lisa Havilah and Carriageworks for staging it in the first place. Let’s hope Wesley Enoch or his scouts saw it and we can see it in his first Sydney Festival. Pretty please…
Reviewed 21 April
The cathedral-like halls of Redfern’s Carriageworks are a blessing and a curse to prospective narrative theatremakers. How could you possibly create an intimate experience in so enormous a space without criminally underusing it?If you’re struggling with that question, you may want to ask the team behind Lake Disappointment, as they have what may well be the definitive answer.
A body double’s career exactly mirrors that of their counterpart, and Hollywood actor Kane is hitting it big at last. His double waits for him at Lake Disappointment, the location for a small-budget thriller, and as the star’s arrival becomes increasingly uncertain, the line between their identities begins to shift. Writer Lachlan Philpott teamed up with performer Luke Mullins to craft the script for this play, and it shows in the flow and candour of the text. It’s as if the language of the character was embedded in Mullins’ frame, and Philpott has simply tapped it and let it spill onto the stage. Our body double is a rather captivating narcissist, beautifully poised and preened but with deeply ugly views on the ‘lesser’ beings that inhabit his world. But who is he, really, to judge?
Mullins is an eminent performer with a grace that makes him a natural for this character, a model who is always performing. A one-man show can be a make-or-break proposition, but Mullins has little to fret with the strength of the production team.
Director Janice Muller has the same respect for “the most beautiful cavern in Sydney” that Philpott does, and a remarkable patience that sees her revelations teased out until they seem impossible. The story constantly invokes the artifice of cinema, and with an eye for detail that would impress Bergman, Muller actualises the cinematic on the stage while emphasising the dramatic possibility of the live space.
Lake Disappointment itself is described like an Australian Twin Peaks; a space where anything is possible and Mullins’ disintegrating sense of self is intertwined with the landscape in thrilling fashion. To say more would be to say too much, but attention must be drawn to the pitch-perfect contribution of sound designer and composer James Brown. Just when you think that musical swell is becoming a bit dramatic, don’t worry – the creators do, too. Finding the exact midpoint between theatre and cinema, Lake Disappointment fails in only one regard, and that’s in living up to its title.
DAILY REVIEW BY BEN NEUTZE
APR 21, 2016
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.
Lake Disappointment: reflection of an existential chasm
by JOHN MCCALLUM, THE AUSTRALIAN
APRIL 22, 2016
Luke Mullins gives a great performance as a character whose sense of his own identity is so precarious that he scarcely seems to be there in his own right.
He plays the unnamed body-double of a Hollywood star and he identifies so closely with “Kane” that he thinks and talks about little else. He is miked, so we hear his inner thoughts as he stands around doing utterly banal things for a camera crew we never see. He is proud of his hands when they shoot the cutaway shots of the hero drinking tea; he is vain about his legs and the physical discipline with which he is buffing up his body for the big scene at the end. He dreams of getting a shot of his torso into the movie and winning an award at the annual body-double convention in Atlanta. He is like a Narcissus looking into the mirror surface of a pond that reflects nothing at all.
At first we see him standing in Lake Disappointment, the title of the movie being filmed, holding his hands out for a distant helicopter shot. The spare script by Mullins and Lachlan Philpott takes great pains at first to establish the supposed reality of the location shoot, but we soon realise that Mullins’s vacant character, like the town made of flats that has been built for the shooting of the movie, will soon crumble away to nothing.
The play adds an extra dimension to the unreality of filming, in which the second camera unit operates entirely outside what is going on in the main story. “My body and Kane’s thoughts,” he says. The effect is comic and sad.
Janice Muller’s disciplined and striking production uses the vast depth of Carriageworks’ largest space to emphasise the loneliness of this solitary character. Set and costume designer Michael Hankin has enclosed the space in black curtains, but when these open out at the end we are left with Mullins’s character alone in a kind of existential void.
Composer and sound designer James Brown has created an accompaniment that works like a film score, with naturalistic sound and sudden surges of emotional music. Matt Cox’s lighting is dramatic, and then suddenly washed out during the powerful conclusion, when all the illusion is swept away and we are left with something suddenly stark and bare. Although it is about hollow dreams and narcissistic obsessions, and is cynical and funny in that, this production has a bitter tenderness at its heart.
A man stands alone on stage, his arms raised (Christ-like). He starts talking to us, in a tone that’s confessional – but more: conspiratorial. He’s filming a scene in a lake, for a low-budget independent feature – he’s standing in the water. He’s a body double for the film’s star, Kane.
The film looks like it will be Kane’s “cross-over” role, our narrator tells us – his “potential McConaughey moment” – and therefore also his crossover role as a body double. No longer just the star/body-double of action films Suitcase Bomb, Taxidermist, Path of the Willing et al, they will be arthouse-certified. “Awards material.”
The film, called ‘Lake Disappointment’, is about a man who arrives in a town on a lake, but can’t find the lake. At the climax he finally finds it and, seeing his reflection in its surface, discovers his real self.
Co-written by playwright Lachlan Philpott (M Rock; Silent Disco) and actor/writer/director Luke Mullins (The Glass Menagerie), Lake Disappointment (the play) is an elaborate assemblage of reflections and surfaces that constantly asks you to think about the construction of narrative and identity and ‘art’.
Physically, Kane and his body double (our narrator through this one-man play, but never given a name) are almost mirror images, and their careers have been tied together – rising as one, in parallel universes of fame (there are body-double conferences and awards, he tells us). The structure of the play and the film are in key ways reflections. Within the play, incidents mirror the film. And there are actual mirrors on stage.
But there’s more to Lake Disappointment than merely an aesthetic, or an examination of artifice. Mullins takes us inside mind of a person who has created himself by collage; he is a simulacra of Kane, created in bit pieces: abs, arms, hands, hair… It’s a necessary part of a job in which he is required to only perform once piece of Kane at a time: an aerial shot from above; a close-up shot of hands; a bridging shot from behind.
What does it do to a person to live this way: a career, a life and an identity tied to another person – who at the end of the day, is neither a lover nor a friend? What happens if that actor dies? What happens if you experience a disfigurement, or are otherwise unable to achieve parity with their physicality? All this is raised in the play.
But Lake Disappointment seems to be about something deeper still: our protagonist – as performed by Mullins, and as written in the text of his character’s adoring and homoerotic tributes to Kane – seems to be a queer man in a straight-man’s world, forced to perform heteronormativity ad nauseum. On one level, this is a play about (to borrow a phrase from one of this week’s most moving pieces of writing) the structural violence experienced by non-straight-white-men/women in the film and theatre industries – and beyond.
“I used to make celebrity collages,” says our protagonist. “Mix up the body parts. Start with John Stamos’ head and give him Christian Slater’s ears, and Rob Lowe’s chest with Corey Haim’s legs. I was always really good with scissors.”
As with much of the play, this is hilariously funny – until it’s absolutely tragic.
Mullins (who is somewhat rare among actors for being publicly ‘out’) performs with precision and a level of detail that is amplified by high beam lighting and a pared-back set-design that draws focus straight to his expressive face. It’s hard to imagine anyone else performing this role – and it’s really his show, as he draws us into this dark, twisted Lynchian universe. Kane is a character we laugh at – his vanity, his self-delusion. He’s also a character many will identify with, striving for inclusion in a world that’s not built to include him. Our laughter makes his tragedy the greater.
But Lake Disappointment is not just a performance or a character – it’s a seriously smart, rigorously planned piece of writing and theatre, top to bottom.