Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Aug 26 – Sep 10, 2022
Playwright: Michel Marc Bouchard
Director: Danny Ball
Cast: Di Adams, Zoran Jevtic, Rory O’Keeffe, Hannah Raven
Images by Becky Matthews
City slicker Tom travels to a farm in rural Ontario, where his boyfriend William’s funeral is being held. William’s mother Agatha remains oblivious to the fact that her son was gay, which makes things very complicated for Tom, who finds himself lured into a longer stay on the property by William’s brother, Francis. Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm, offers a look at homophobia, and its various manifestations. Through Francis, we observe that the hatred toward gay men, although born of ignorance, can easily turn into cruelty and violence, no matter how close in kinship. Bouchard’s writing is beautifully heightened, able to convey realism along with an unmistakeable lyricism, that prevents the story from turning dreary. There are hints of humour that provide delightful reprieve, but Tom at the Farm is certainly a dark tale at heart.
Danny Ball’s direction of the piece luxuriates in that moodiness, and applies a sexual charge to interactions between Tom and Francis, that interrogates Francis’ homophobia, and questions if self-hatred is part of Tom’s own erotic constitution. Kate Beere’s set design, although evocative of rustic agricultural lands, seems restrictive of the actors, who often feel to be positioned uncomfortably. Rachel Adamson’s costumes help to depict the personalities with efficiency and accuracy. Lights by Kate Baldwin and Alice Stafford, bring theatricality to the presentation, and prove to be adept at illustrating the multiple degrees of malaise that the story explores. Music by Chrysoulla Markoulli also adds drama, as well as a great deal of sophistication, to how we experience the show.
Actor Zoran Jevtic demonstrates admirable commitment to the role of Tom, discerningly restraint in his approach, yet able to portray a sense of authenticity for a highly complex study of character. Francis is played by Rory O’Keeffe, who looks every bit the part of a hateful yokel, although his intensity can at times feel overwrought. Di Adams brings a quirky charm to her portrayal of Agatha, skilfully turning likeable, a somewhat deficient woman. Hannah Raven enters late in the narrative, as Natalie, to extend much needed gender balance, and to allow viewers a refreshed access point, for a story that develops to increasingly bizarre territory.
Queer people reside in cities, because we find strength in numbers. Out in the bush, marginalisation is hard to overcome, and conformity becomes de rigueur, for everyone. Tom’s grief propels him to escape into a dangerous place, seduced by the illusion of Francis’ familiar physicality. Where instincts tell him there is security, awaits only degradation and harm. We too can be persuaded that the idyllic beauty of the countryside, but it is without doubt, that rural life is not for everyone.