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Jeanette Cronin and Huw Higginson. Images: Brett Boardman.

THEATRE: 29 MAY 2015

By TONI CARROLL

The House on the Lake, by Aidan Fennessy | Directed by Kim Hardwick

Griffin Theatre Company & Black Swan State Theatre Company | Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst, Sydney | Until 20 June

David (Huw Higginson) is a criminal lawyer who  finds himself in some kind of medical facility, unable to remember how he got there.

Alice (Jeanette Cronin) is his appointed psychologist, his one touchstone to the real world.

For once the publicist blurb on the programme is not just florrid hype:

“… coax memories out of the darkness …”

“… details of a terrible secret emerge …”

“… razor sharp and tourniquet tight …”

“… a psychological thriller so crafty it’s criminal …”

“… mired deep in layers of deception …”

“… a twisting labyrinth …”

The House on the Lake is a riveting, intellectual and emotional trip. Writer Aidan Fennessy masterfully plots the course of this intriguing story, planting questions and drip-feeding the audience answers in his own deliciously agonising time. Along with David and Alice, you try to piece together the events of David’s time in limbo.

Stephen Curtis’s set design adds to the tension with the claustrophobic dimensions of an already tight space by raising the stage.

Higginson and Cronin work magnificently together. Both maintain a focus and presence that relentlessly pulls the audience along. The strong directorial hand of Kim Hardwick is obvious.

Higginson, particularly, never seemed to lose focus for a moment on opening night. He also brought an emotion to the part that elevates it from mere intellectual game playing to character-driven tragedy. The challenge for him will be to maintain that level of focus and emotion for the run of the play.

Cronin necessarily underplays initially. Her Alice allows the audience to focus on Higginson’s performance. We need to experience David’s discoveries and bond with him. But then she steps it up as the perspective shifts. A subtle but masterful performance.

This play, and the quality of the performances, comes along rarely. If you only see one thing this year make it The House on the Lake. Absolutely thumbs up.

NOTE: To read Toni Carroll's blog, visit tonicarroll.wordpress.com

Huw Higginson.

Jeanette Cronin.