SYN Nation

Review: Uncle Gus: A Fictional Biography of Sue Lyon


Writer: Telford Mills

Director: Simon Coleman

Starring: Tamara Donnellan, Jason Cavanagh, Catherine Glavicic, Allen Laverty, Vuyo Loko

Now showing at La Mama Theatre until March 15


The program for Uncle Gus begins with a simple propos from author of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov: “I have often wondered what became of those nymphets later.”

This fictional biography focuses on Sue Lyon, the nymphet star of the film interpretation of this American canon novel, and what became of her in the years following her childhood fame in a role she seemingly can’t dislodge herself from.

Uncle Gus is set on one particular night of Sue’s life, as she is coincidentally reunited with all the influential men from her past, all sharing in similar father-like and controlling attributes, all promising to free her from her sad life, and she becomes a little girl in need of saving again and again with each of them.

The play is intense, disturbing and emotional, with instances of domestic violence, resentment and a continual feeling of hatred permeating the show’s entirety. Lighting is used uniquely, adding intrigue and drama during an electrical blowout, as is a projector used in the closing scenes to progress the story without seeming tacky or clichéd.

Uncle Gus is self-reflexive in a similarly noteworthy way without being obvious or annoying – there is a kind of meta cleverness to writer Telford Mills’ script, with references to the audience and the progression of the play.

A small criticism must be given to the actors’ accents, as they all had instances of slipping from certain character peculiarities, and this was at times distracting from the otherwise talented performances, direction and writing. Uncle Gus is a perfect example of the supreme talent waiting to be discovered in Melbourne, and La Mama is the ideal venue for an intimate evening with a huge bunch of creative people you can say you knew before they were famous. 

– Zoe Winther


Zoe Winther
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