The House on the Lake | Griffin Theatre Company

The House on the Lake | Griffin Theatre CompanyLeft – Huw Higginson and Jeanette Cronin. Cover – Huw Higginson. Photos – Brett Boardman 

Literary allusions to Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll are part of the puzzle to Aidan Fennessy’s The House on the Lake.

Lawyer, David Rail, wakes up to find himself in a hospital with forensic psychologist, Alice. “I’m here to help”, Alice says by way of introduction, and Rail is in need of help. Rail is derailed, suffering from apparent amnesia, days erased since his last conscious recollections, mindfulness blanked in a burrow of oblivion.

Alice must follow him down this rabbit hole to reclaim his memory, to coax the truth from the mire, to force the forgotten to the surface.

David’s barrister brain doesn’t put much stock in truth, believing logic trumps truth at every hand, whereas Alice is like a living lie detector – ‘amnesia…does not logically preclude the possibility of guilt.’ Alice observes that his surname, Rail, seen in the looking glass, is liar.

Whether he is a liar and thus implicated in a murder, or the victim of an elaborate set-up, is the narrative nerve centre of this play, a who-dunnit/why-dunnit played out in a locked room, but utilising a doctor patient scenario rather than the traditional detective suspect inquisition.

Poe has informed a Fennessy play previously, in Chilling and Killing My Annabel Lee, and Poe’s poem A Dream within a Dream is the literary latchkey that unlocks the door of deception and dour deeds in The House on the Lake.

Poe, of course, was one of the early and great practitioners of the locked room mystery with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Fennessy tributes the template of the observation of disparate bits of information and the inspired deduction that results, and the dénouement in which all is made clear.

Jeanette Cronin imbues the character of Alice with a clinician’s precision. Mouse meek in her representation of handmaid to memory rehabilitation, there’s the underlying subtle tracker of treachery determined to trap the truth. There’s a delicious frisson in her delivery of sincere yet sardonic simpatico with Rail – ‘I understand that feeling of being lied to’. Mouse meek masking Cheshire Cat.

As the criminal lawyer who may well be a criminal, Huw Higginson convincingly conveys the confusion and frustration that major mind lapse must wreak while adhering to the arrogance associated with successful attorneys.

Stephen Curtis’ set design is a white wall variant of Bluestone College, sparse and spare down to the stainless steel sink where Rail ablutes on more than one occasion, (whether it’s for straightforward hygiene or psychological washing of hands is one of the ponderables of the play).

Martin Kinnane’s lighting shades and contrasts from clinical blue to stark white accentuates the mood as does the aural notes of Kelly Ryall’s sound design, with a predominant pitch piercing sonic doom effect.

Corralling the talents of these collaborators, director Kim Hardwick brings this production home in a pacey ninety minute, no time for interval, clip.


Griffin Theatre Company presents
The House on the Lake
by Aidan Fennessey

Director Kim Hardwick

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 22 May – 20 June 2015
Tickets: $55 – $20
Bookings: 02 9361 3817 | www.griffintheatre.com.au


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