Forget heartbreak hotel. In What Lies Beneath, a young man takes himself off on a heartbreak hiking trip – a month alone in the mountains with only the memory of being dumped for company. He takes an ascetic approach to the agonies of love, and treats his breakup like a spirit walk. Retreat from the world. Wallow in the pain. How very male.
Out of his tent, however, pop the men in his life, each offering a different brand of manly advice to pull him out of his funk. His puppyish brother, ever eager to please, tries to gee him up. His alpha old dad comes bearing BBQ prongs. His best mate swears by booze. In a series of surreal skits, they do everything except ask how he’s feeling. There are silent squash games, and stomach crunch competitions, and good old ‘get back in the game, son’ pep talks.
It adds up to a damning indictment of male emotional unintelligence, and the tendency to shut up and shut down. The hiker replays the breakup over and over, hoping for a different outcome.
However, Johan Bark's production is a stylistic mish-mash, and the metaphor is never quite concrete. Are we on a hike with a load of hallucinations, or is he hiding out in his home? Either way, the show gets stuck in the man’s stasis. It wallows with him and never moves on. Far worse, it gives his girlfriend neither a voice nor a view. What lies beneath? Not a lot.