From the pen of acclaimed playwright Aidan Fennessy comes this suspenseful two-hander in which a doctor must interrogate a man with anterograde amnesia in order to solve a labyrinthine mystery. We caught up with director Stuart Halusz.
Stuart Halusz, pictured centre, has long been a member of Perth’s theatre community, but largely as an actor rather than a director. Having cut his directorial teeth on youth and indie productions, he’s now moving onto a more prestigious project in the form of The House On The Lake.
“The transition has been made easy, in a way, by the people I’m working with on this show.” he reflects. “It’s the great strength of the Perth artistic community – that we have people who have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. We have a lot of people who are multidisciplinary: a lot of writer/directors, a lot of actor/directors and so on. When you’re working with people like that, it’s very much a collaborative approach and that really helped.”
Halusz had his pick of a few scripts, but once he read The House On The Lake he knew he needed to make it. “ A few options were put forward to me by (Black Swan State Theatre Company) artistic director Kate Cherry and this one leaped out at me for a number of reasons, the first being that it was written by Aidan Fennessy, who I had the great fortune of working with in 2012 on a play called National Interest for Black Swan on the main stage. Working with Aidan, getting a sense of how he works and how he thinks and how he considers narrative, especially given the context of a lot of design-based theatre that seems to be sweeping the nation at the moment, that really attracted me to this piece. I read it and it was a page turner – I couldn’t put it down. It’s a classic whodunnit – a real psychological thriller and I found it just entirely engaging and gripping down to the last page, when everything becomes clear.”
It’s also a play with a limited cast – only Kenneth Ransom and Marthe Rovik appear on stage – a situation which presented its own challenges to the fledgling director. “It’s a different thing to have 10 or 12 actors on stage and the challenges that poses, the mechanics of moving them around and creating pretty pictures. So you would think at the outset, ‘Oh, only two people? No worries! I’ve only got two people to worry about.’ This play is set in one room – a hospital room – and there is no set change, so the conversation that happens between these two people, we need to keep moving, keep alive. The challenge is how do we do that, otherwise we just end up sitting around a table talking for an hour and a half. And again, I think I’ve been blessed by having the opportunity to work on a play that’s written by a director. Aidan’s also an actor, so he comes at the work from a very broad perspective and a very considered on, so he’s actually done a lot of my work in a way. He’s very astute in terms of how he shapes the dramatic arc and that, in turn, leads me to find the answers with and through my actors in a fairly easy way, I suppose.”
The House On The Lake runs at the State Theatre Centre’s Studio Underground from June 6 – 22. Head to bsstc.com.au for tickets and session times.