[THEATRE REVIEW] LOVE LUST LOST @ The Austral Review (2023)

Immersive and interactive theatre excites me. It always has.

We don’t see enough of it in Australia.

That is why I entered The Austral in Collingwood (a former theatre, cinema and roller-skating rink that dates back to 1921) with a heightened sense of anticipation.

Forty-three rooms, eight characters, with us – the audience – free to go where we want, when we want, over 90 minutes.

The theme is a subterranean adventure on board the submarine E.V. Nautilus, piloted by Captain Anderson (Sandro Colarelli).

After being led down a thin corridor littered with dozens of scuba tanks and donning plastic ponchos, we enter a room where the captain’s treasures are on display. Many of the antiquities are in Perspex cases.

We are invited into a decompression chamber, ready for our dive below the surface, complete with suitably eerie sounds.

Once “below”, the nooks and crannies of the underwater craft are ours to explore.

The crew consists of a ragtag bunch of odd bods and reprobates.

I have already referenced the captain. His only child daughter Sandy (Bri Emrich) has never been to the surface or experienced life outside the vessel.

Her best friend, confidante and protector is lobster Claude (Chloe Towan).

Showing more than a passing interest in Sandy is the dashing Chan (Jeremy Lloyd).

Stefano, the mustachioed head chef (Kristian Santic) has a Snidely Whiplash quality about him. The latter was a fictional character that appeared as the main antagonist in The Rocky and Bullwinkle animated television series.

The half human Sea Creature (Callum Mooney) appears menacing, but is shy.

Salacia (Meg Hickey) is the tantalising sea witch, a purveyor of the dark arts.

And finally, there is the lithe and long-limbed charmer and seducer Trink (Sho Eba).

The E.V. Nautilus is a potpourri of spaces – from food preparation areas and living quarters to an herbarium, a child’s, diminutive jumping castle and a beauty parlour.

There is a love swing and a room for sexual deviants, plus a decidedly nasty looking operating theatre, with blood splattered walls and floor and much more besides.

As we clamber up and down narrow staircases and move into the rooms, we interact with the cast, who perform a series of mini shows.

The captain spoke gibberish to us, we witnessed two disparate pole dancers, the chef and Chan fighting in “the cage”, and musical interludes.

In fact, the show culminates with a cavalcade of music, song and dance on board the biggest and broadest wooden table I have ever seen.

These talented and versatile artistes are undoubtedly melodious.

Written by Kirsten Siddle and Helen Cassidy, while the former is also the creative director, Broad Encounters’ Love Lust Lost is an experience to savour.

Well designed (by Mike Finch, Josh McIntosh and James Browne) and choreographed (by Jo Cotterill), it is enticing, imaginative, esoteric and provocative.

Think sight, sound and smell and immersing oneself in the magic, mystery and mayhem.

The costuming by Melanie Gillbank and Laurie Verling certainly gets pulses racing.

Sound design is courtesy of Michael Theiler and Peret von Sturmer, with lighting by Jason Glenwright. The musical arrangements are the work of Mik La Vage.

Love Lust Lost follows the success of gothic hit A Midnight Visit, which ran for 16 weeks in Melbourne in 2019 and this promises to be another crowd favourite.

Playing at The Austral until 29th October 2023, it is also good for repeat visitors, insofar as the team behind it has nine hours of content that varies between shows. For bookings, go to www.lovelustlost.com

Review by Alex First