Become the One, written by Adam Fawcett and directed by Lyall Brooks, has made its onstage debut this February as part of Midsumma 2019. The work, co-presented by Lab Kelpie and Gasworks Arts Park, promises to be a fearless exploration of hyper masculinity packaged within a queer love story.
From the outset it’s funny, it’s charismatic and it’s also a total cliché. Tom (Chris Asimos), is a closeted football player crippled by social expectations and internalised homophobia. He falls for his apartment cleaner Noah (Henry Strand), a young effeminate queer man. From here, both Tom and Noah are forced to navigate their own beliefs, expectations and relationships.
Asimos and Strand’s performances are a clear highlight of this show. Their honesty and impeccable timing are a joy to watch. Despite hailing from Queensland (resulting in the many AFL references flying right over my head), I found myself snorting with laughter throughout much of the show, particularly at Noah’s taunting of bougie South Yarra. Regrettably however, this is where my positive notes end.
The show leads audiences to expect a challenging, nuanced conversation that unfortunately never really comes. In terms of growth and dimension, both characters feel stale after a few scenes. Noah is whiny and relatively unsympathetic to Tom’s plight. Similarly, Tom’s explosive bouts of anger cease to be either moving or thought provoking by the end, cementing his character as two dimensional and frankly, a bit boring to watch.
This narrative is one most of us have seen, heard or even lived through before. It is the story of coming out to oneself and to one’s community in an environment seeped in social expectations, toxic masculinity and masked homophobia. Fawcett’s take could have been brilliant had it added something new to the conversation or remained more self aware. Unfortunately, all audiences are left with is the unsatisfying commentary that stories like these continue to exist, which is a fact most audience members will likely already be painfully aware of. This could have been replaced by giving the play a sense that things might be getting better, howthings might get better, or even a look into why stories like Noah and Tom’s are still prevalent within communities that should have progressed by now.
Become the One was an enjoyable watch. However ultimately it felt too safe and too predictable, particularly considering it was staged within this festival. It did not live up to the expectations of an audience primed for bolder, more pressing conversations than what it offered.
Lab Kelpie’s production of BECOME THE ONE ran from the 31 January – 9 February 2019 at Gasworks Arts Park.
Photography by Jodie Hutchinson