Sunday, June 10, 2012

Malice Towards None

Photo by Steven Siewert

40 Watt Pearl in association with Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre company presents MALICE TOWARDS NONE at the Old Fitzroy Theatre.

Chris Aronsten is the Writer, Director, Producer and Composer of this presentation: MALICE TOWARDS NONE. It is an 80 minute omnibus of three monologues: "What would Cathy do?"; "My name is Pete"; and "Janet wants a carrot".

Mr Aronsten is a graduate of AFTRS (BA, Screenwriting) and the NIDA playwriting studio. Two of the pieces deal with subjects from the "underclasses', or, in Gorky terms : the lower depths, and the other, with a representative of a minority group. The "other", the "outsider"  is what interests this writer and the writing is, generally, very good.

The character : actor/addict in the first piece, "What Cathy would do", reveals "a lost soul" that had aspirations, once upon a time, with being an actor. In fact, she still does. Her 'craft' technique was/is based, sadly, delusionarily, on the importance of 'in the field' research experience.The story that she tells of her research for the role of "Cathy", helps us see, the path that this would-be actress, in search of "Cathy", may have taken, to be, what she has become today. There is a veracity to the text that is, mostly, further enhanced by the performance and look of Skye Wansey, who inhabits this character of the would-be "Cathy" with disturbing familiarity. To actually get to the Old Fitzroy Theatre, either, through the Cross or up Cathedral Street, or from Woolloomooloo,  one may pass many an addict on the street. Ms Wansey could have wandered in, off the street, and accidentally ended up on this stage. The truthfulness and the pathos that Ms Wansey creates is scary to participate with.

In the next piece, "My name is Pete" we meet another well observed and, yet, rarely seen citizen in our community, and all the more arresting, for that - Mr Aronsten, has an eye for the neglected character. "Pete" is a retired pensioner, gambling addict, bordering into the shadows of Alzheimers, who has, to make money, accepted the role of recruiting similar people to work for the drug traders of the Cross, by having them scam chemist shops for legal medicines that can be used to create black-marketable addictive drugs. In this case, David Attrill, like Ms Wansey, has all the appearance of startling authenticity to be "Pete"- it is easy to believe that once again, "Pete" has simply wandered, accidentally into the theatre space at the Old Fitz and begun talking. However, the acting lacks the depth and skill of the former, and soon one becomes less interested in the long story and it does not hold one's attention with the same fascination. The text rings true, but the embodied storytelling lacks the conviction of a lived life, it has the superficiality, ultimately, of an actor pretending, worse, reciting.

Finally, Ana Marie Belo, creates "Jane" a young woman being 'pressured' in both her work place and in her personal life. "Jane" is a Health and Safety Officer dealing with the ludicrous demands within that domain, in public institutions, today, whilst at the same time struggling through the pitfalls of a same sex relationship, attempting to become a parent through the miracle of modern conceptual techniques with her unreliable partner, and a mother "Janet" (Jill McKay) suffering from dementia and another health issue around the consumption of carrots, that no-one else seems to be alarmed about. "Jane" spirals out of control to where emotional breakdown is inevitable. "Jane" could have wandered down into the theatre from the harbour end of Macleay Street, Potts Point ! and started talking.

In the tradition of the Ancient Greek theatre festivals where performance always had two serious works followed by a comic satire, Mr Aronsten, seems to have written with "Janet wants a carrot" an exaggeration- a satiric cartoon to complete his evening. Certainly, the uber-theatricality in the creation and playing of "Jane" by Ms Belo seems to propel it into that sphere, abetted by a pop-eyed, very orange faced Ms McKay with a "Betty Boop" tone of voice reciting "Janet wants a carrot" as her vaudevillian stooge partner. With Ms Belo, we see a polished professional actor, in a highly designed costume 'look',(Set and Costume Design : Julia Young), glean and then gleam this material into a shiny 'comic' observation and presentation of satire. It is really the direction here, that has not signaled more clearly the tonal shift of the evening, and for some of us, it takes some time to discover the tone of the monologue and begin to enjoy.

MALICE TOWARDS NONE works best when the material is secure in its world and anchored by performance that is skewered with detailed possession. "What would Cathy do" is a fairly amazing experience. "My name is Pete" is flawed by the performance. "Jane wants a carrot" needs a more obvious tonal guide from the director to fully work. Mixed success but from characters in a fascinating part of our world.

 To be absolutely honest, I am a little over the preponderance of monologue as theatre. (Is it the Irish play TERMINUS, that we saw at the Drama Theatre last year, we have to blame for this? They got away with it, perhaps, because the poetry-in-the-prose was beautiful. Write like that, and maybe, I'll endure). A play with six characters or more, interacting with each other might be good for a change. Are there any new Australian plays out there doing that? It feels as if "Cathy", "Pete", "Jane" and "Janet" are writer's exercises to find the voice of the characters for a play. There are further places for these characters to go to, one would hope. Maybe, to a clinic waiting room up the road, where a 'situation' might evolve into an interactive story with plot that might dramatically reveal, through conflicted action, what these naked, direct speeches tell the audience, well, too nakedly ! Too many of these monologues and one gets a bit bored - let me read them, no need to go to the expense and discommode of the theatre really, if this is all it is, is there ?  I kept thinking of Arthur Miller's INCIDENT AT VICHY, where a collection of disparate and desperate characters are waiting for interview . -!!?? - Characters as interesting as those by Mr Aronsten in a dramatic situation. I've never seen that play, perhaps, I'd rather it !!

 See, how the mind can wander. Ahhhhh ! A play, that involves us with raw human dilemma, without post dramatic distancing etc, etc, etc, .... remember them? Maybe, that will be the new form, or, should we just go to the movies to catch that?

That Chris Aronsten is writer, director, producer and composer of this evening (although, Nick Aronsten is also credited with the Sound Design and Composition), suggests an artist taking control of his opportunities. The Darlinghurst Theatre has curated the premiere season of Mr Aronsten's latest work THE LUNCH HOUR in September, to be directed by Kate Gaul. I hope it is a play and not another collection of monologues!!!. For, Mr Aronsten's point of world view is very arresting, indeed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kevin - you'll be happy to know Chris Aronten's The Lunch Hour (Darlinghurst Theatre/September/Dir. Kate Gaul) has a cast of 7. Check out the Darlo website.