Sunday 17 September 2023

Love Lust Lost review

It's difficult to give a review of the immersive and interactive production of Love Lust Lost without mentioning all the specifically amazing things about it because a lot of the fun comes from the surprise of discovering things for yourself, and not focusing on searching for certain rooms or experiences and enjoying what you have in front you. But review I must, so while I am being intentionally vague, I will say that this is definitely an event that you do not want to miss. It's been over four years since Broad Encounters brought A Midnight Visit to Melbourne so the debut of Love Lust Lost was met with anticipation and it did not disappoint.

In this instance, we board the submarine E.V. Nautilus, piloted by Captain Anderson, and follow the residents of this subterranean world and the loves, tragedies and mysteries they each carry with them. We are led into a decompression chamber and eventually faced with our first of many decisions, will we go left or will we go right? And so begins the adventure and the exploring.

Usually I tackle these kind of shows by latching on to one character and sticking with them as much as possible. It generally pays off as you are more likely to get a unique experience with them but also you get a fuller picture of their story. With Love Lust Lost though, I chose to run like a madman between three characters and while I couldn't pick up a good deal of the story, it was still incredibly exciting being led to hidden rooms, receiving passwords to be used later and interacting and engaging with the performers, which made the evening even more memorable.

As mentioned, I mainly followed three characters, the Sea Creature (Callum Mooney), Chan (Jeremy Lloyd) and Stefano the Chef (Kristian Šantić), and all of them show great ability in embodying their character both physically and mentally. The entire ensemble display confidence in their roles, allowing them to improvise conversations with audience, such as when I was reproached by Claude after accidentally kicking over a bucket. Fusing circus, dance and physical theatre there are some impressive fight scenes directed by Nigel Poultron and dance choreography by Jo Cotterill happening. There are even well known songs littered about, sometimes sung and sometimes through spoken word where you hear familiar lyrics but unable to pin point them until it finally hits you.

Head of set design, Mike Finch and his team have undertaken a mammoth task of transforming The Austral theatre into an underwater world. With over forty rooms to come across at our own pace and by our own choice, each door leads to unexpected encounters with surprise after surprise to stumble upon. The attention to detail is impeccable, and the hours that were no doubt spent discussing how to give each room the impression that a real person had used it and lived here, and then creating all the props and items is awe-inspiring.

Creator, creative director and co-writer Kirsten Siddle and co-writer Helen Cassidy have referenced well over 100 literary works, film and television shows, and songs and music. While it's highly unlikely you'd pick up on all of these, each one you recognise, draws you deeper into the world and you feel like this is also your world. At times I felt like we were ghosts of the submarine floating through this time and space, and this feeling grew stronger as we were eventually led to one room for the grand finale to take place.

There's more I could say about Love Lust Lost but that would risk ruining it for you. It's only on until the end of October and The Austral is actually being demolished shortly after so this might also be the last opportunity you get to explore the fascinating architecture of the building itself. A final word of advice though: shows such as these work best when you give yourself over to it: be bold, be daring, speak to the performers, say yes to everything, you will be looked after and you will walk away thinking about what you have experienced for days to come, as I am, and wondering what is to be discovered on a return visit.

Show Details

Venue: Austral Theatre, 200 Johnston St. Collingwood
Season: until 29 October | Wed - Sun, various times
Duration: 75 - 90 minutes
Tickets: $72 - $89
Bookings: Love Lust Lost

Primary image credit: Graham Denholm
Secondary image credit: Jeff Busby

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