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January 26, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Love Your Poison


Published 20/9/10 at www.artshub.com.au

Most of us are aware of the times when memory melds into the present. Sometimes it is so strong that the past collides with what we think is happening, informing what we do and say to the people around us. So when Rose, the central character in Love Your Poison begins to face the idea of death sooner than she expected, the past and present arrive together in interesting and heartbreaking ways. As Rose grapples with a long-term illness, her husband and son are drawn into the maze of Rose’s struggle to reconcile herself with the demons in her past.

As a grumpy, intelligent and terrified woman, Abbe Holmes plays Rose with a flawless, gruff vulnerability. She is wonderfully accessible as a character and brilliantly cast, a fact which is greatly helped by the playful and thoughtful writing by Christine Croyden. The script offers every character their own distinct tone, with Mick (played by Mike Bishop) a perfect choice as the patient, loving but flawed husband to Rose. And son Ben (played by Dominic Buckham) adeptly chooses the melancholy silence of a teenage boy, rather than opting for any kind of overdone melodrama. He plays Ben with a vulnerability equal to that exuded by his counterparts.

This play is certainly about dealing with a difficult choice; about whether life or death is the braver option, and how fair each choice is for everyone involved. Rose’s main aid, and her biggest torment, are her memories of the past with Mick. The younger Mick and Rose are brought to life by the well-chosen Christopher Milligan and Elaine McDonnell, whose scenes add greater texture to this couple’s tumultuous history. Here the dialogue may have been more difficult to work with; most of their scenes are angst-ridden and angry, and tend to come with the denser emotional material. However both actors deal with the demands of the task admirably, and when they re-enact the more tender scenes of happier times between Mick and Rose, they bring an impressive sweetness to the memories in which Rose becomes so deeply mired at times.

So much so that when the audience is inevitably snapped back into the present, just like Rose’s frazzled consciousness, they gradually come to understand Rose’s current fear of the present and her struggle with human weakness, fragility and love.

All in all it is an impressive set of performances aided by a strong, soulful script – if only the season had been longer!

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