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Malice Toward None
Written by Paul Andrew   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 07:03

malice_intWriter, Director and Composer Chris Aronsten makes his mark with Malice Toward None, four broken characters, three highly evocative monologues, four memorable performances.

Chris Aronsten's triptych follows stridently in the footsteps of the ancient monologue tradition. However it was not the sleight of hand of Euripedes, Shakespeare or Alan Bennett that sprang to mind during the sometime salacious street savvy that underscores Malice Toward None, it was the slightly camp and ever so witty monologuist extraordinaire Ruth Draper. Why? Because it was Draper who famously commented on the art of monologues: Try to look at everything through the eyes of a child.

And it was Draper's witty monologues – in particular the one about having three chocolate eclaires a day – that circled my forgotten memory banks while enjoying the three beautifully drawn characters in Aronsten's highly successful show at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in Wolloomooloo. Perhaps this is because there is a similar childlike sense of wonder in Aronsten's writing, one cached with quotable quotes and comically imbibed with Kathy's shoplifting advice and Kings Cross colloquialisms, Pete's One Arm Bandit rules and rites and regulations and Jane's Occupational Health and Safety rhetoric that Aronsten has unpacked and parodied to evince beauty in brokenness.

Each character is a rather bleak portrait of addiction, greed, obsession and constant craving and each character, in some measure – and with varying degrees of atonement – reflects awkwardly on a wounded past. Kathy (Skye Warnsey) the first in the triptych carries a dog eared feature film script in her back pack along with the spoon and accoutrements of junkie living required for an ordinary day walking hastily along "The Silk Road" between Central and the Cross. Kathy dimly recalls the encouragement and tenderness of her Aunty Jean, the Aunty who always set the table and was always "proper".

Pete aka Pappa Smurf (David Attrill) is losing his mind, and as his logic is on the cusp of dementia, he recalls his earlier life, his earlier world view, a time when life may not have been Walden, but Pete dimly recalls had a small business that did well, a family he loved and a family who loved him. Jane (Ana Maria Belo) is all power dressed and self important, a curious blend of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, the Tigger in Pooh Corner and the Hare in The Tortise and The Hare, as she and her partner join the quest into parenthood and the challenges of IVF. Jane is having a difficult time with her own mother Janet (Jill McKay) who is "as orange as Ayres Rock' and a matriarch with whom she has little compassion – of her mother's quiet obsession with eating carrots, Jane cries in exasperation, "Janet has found God and it's eight inches long."  

During my favourite scene of the play, when Jane snaps and falls; a fall triggered by a humble cigarette lighter (no spoilers okay), Jane begins to dimly recall her past, her true relationship with her mother, and something of the truth of the way things really are, understanding that denial is a fool's paradise.

Each of Aronsten's characters inhabits a child-like state and demonstrates a child-like world view – sometimes it is chemically induced and sometimes it is produced by the vagaries of aging and the great accumulation of life experience. It is here in the alchemy of strangeness in the dimmest of recollections in the most remote of the character's memories where we observe as seekers as much as audience members, and witness beauty in brokenness, and perhaps, begin to see the way.

Chris Aronsten's play The Lunch Hour, directed by Kate Gaul will debut at The Darlinghurst Theatre from September 7, 2012.

Malice Toward None
by Chris Aronsten

Director Chris Aronsten

Venue: The Old Fitzroy Theatre
Dates: May 25 – June 16 2012
Times: Tues – Sat 8.00pm, Sun 5.00pm
Tickets: $33 Adult. $25 Conc. $41 Beer Meal & Show, Cheap Tuesday $21, $34 BM&S

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