Astroturf covered shapes and a red leather chair. A red cushion. A repurposed blue fruit bowl, now for keys. This is Tom and Noah’s field.
There’s awkward laughter as they get to know their rhythm. Testing the water. Working out where they stand. It’s a blossoming potentiality.
Become The One is drama, comedy and romance, and it’s unlikely you’ve seen a story like this too often on stage before.
Tom is a star AFL player; a season favourite to win the Brownlow. Noah enters Tom’s life when he’s seeking a cleaner for his two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. Despite first expectations, this isn’t entirely about the footy player struggling with identity. If anything, it’s Noah’s story – what it’s like to be the partner of someone so torn between two lives, one of which doesn’t involve you.
Tom is a queer man in denial. Chris Asimos tackles this deep conflict by allowing a nurturing side to come through, whilst simultaneously showing just how torn Tom is between his double-lives. While Tom fantasises about the way things could be, Asimos continues to change his physicality to demonstrate how his character develops emotionally.
Noah is charming in a way that keeps you at arm’s length. He’s clearly had a difficult life, now forcefully stuck in reality. Henry Strand navigates this intricately real character with finesse. Strand works with the text incredibly well and his intensity and emotional responses land with piercing precision. Despite how easy it would be to come to this, Noah is never just a victim. This is testament to both Strand’s acting and Lyall Brooks’ insightful direction.
Strand and Asimos work together to maintain tension and discomfort, exploding and being gentle with sharp contrast. They steep the audience in their character’s desires to feel safety within perceived threat. The costuming throughout the show reflects the challenges and emotional states the characters face. While Noah’s clothing remains more expressive throughout, Tom’s rigidity in his athletic clothing slowly loosens as his grip on his hyper masculinity does too.
Scene changes lent themselves to experiencing those tense moments after a difficult conversation or argument – you’re stuck wanting the next thing to happen. But you need to wait and have a breather, so while the pacing of the show dramatically changes in each scene, the overall impact remains powerful. The lighting and music create a sense of passing time, particularly within these moments.
Become The One is Adam Fawcett’s first play, stepping out from his usual role as producer in Lab Kelpie. He tackles huge themes such as toxic masculinity, identity, and queer romance, as well as questioning the culture of the much-loved AFL, all with a noticeable grace. His writing is brave and it’s driven by fast, personal dialogue. As Fawcett reveals in the show’s program, this play is what he wished he had seen as a teenager. It’s so many things, and it’s so clear how much care went into sharing his work.
Lab Kelpie are fantastic story tellers, providing an avenue for underrepresented voices through exquisite theatre production, time and time again. You can feel their informed, empathetic touch in each of their productions, meaning they always create powerful, impacting theatre.
Winner of the 2018 Midsumma Gasworks Playtime Event for new queer writing, Become The One underwent a development week in late 2018 and received support to become a fully staged production in the 2019 Midsumma Festival. Thankfully, the ultimate goal of this award is to tour the production nationally, so the message of Become The One is set to reach audiences across the country.
This play is a heartfelt exploration of what it truly means to learn to accept yourself and the forces you inevitably come up against. It asks of you where you draw the line between your own needs and those of the one you love. It questions societal norms and what they ask of us. It’s heart wrenching, raw and categorically brave.
Difference is scary. Challenging a norm is scary. Avoiding doing so feels easier. But ultimately, it’ll be your downfall.
Become The One doesn’t let you off the hook. You’re suspended in the tension of this relationship along with the characters. We need more of this on our stages.
Become The One is on at Melbourne’s Gasworks Arts Park as part of Midsumma Festival until Saturday 9 February 2019.
Images: Jodie Hutchinson