Tom at the Farm – Kings Cross Theatre (NSW)
Written by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau, Directed by Danny Ball
Reviewed by Charlotte Smee
26 Aug - 10 Sep Kings Cross Theatre
Content Warning contains homophobia, abuse, coarse language, and depictions of violence and gore.
Danny Ball makes his directorial debut at the Kings Cross Theatre in the Australian premiere of Tom at the Farm. Originally written in French by Michel Marc Bouchard, and adapted into a Canadian film in 2013, it follows big city advertising editor Tom as he visits the family farm of his recently deceased partner Guillame. Tom pretends he is “just” one of Guillame’s co-workers, telling stories of fake girlfriend Natalie and waiting to reveal his secret, until he comes up against Guillame’s violently homophobic brother Francis. What follows is a disturbing exploration of grief, homophobia and the lies that queer people must construct to protect themselves.
Kate Beere’s set is a platform of wooden planks that becomes a barn, a cow ditch, and the farmhouse’s kitchen. On the back wall, mirrors distort and reflect the actors as they try to figure out how they relate to each other and themselves. Lighting design by Kate Baldwin and Alice Stafford brings some beautiful and horrific visuals like the reds on Tom’s face as Francis tortures him and the golden glow of the morning in the final moments of the play.
(c) Becky Matthews
Zoran Jevtic as Tom is tortured and tender, bringing a heaviness to the grief he feels for Guillame. Rory O’Keeffe is terrifying as the strong and violent brother Francis. Di Adams as grieving mother Agatha does well to balance the two boys out, incessant in her seeming innocence and warm in her country hospitality. Hannah Raven enters very late in the piece and does well as the frustrated friend who can’t bear another second of the nonsense.
Bouchard’s text is tricky for the most part, with sections of dialogue quickly alternating between Tom’s internal dialogue and Agatha introducing herself in the opening scenes. The internal sections were not made clear enough in this production, setting it up as confusing from the beginning. A lot of dialogue is heavily expository, often retelling memories to a static cast member, and this quickly became tired. The best moments were those that revelled in the action of the story, like torture scenes between Tom and Francis or Agatha going through her dead son’s belongings.
It was disappointing to witness a story that almost forgave its homophobic aggressor because of his inner turmoil and homosexual tendencies. Francis is horrible, having torn apart the face of Guillame’s former partner at a town dance, and dropping Tom into a cow ditch hung by his rope-tied feet. Tom is somehow enchanted by this, staying at the farm to help Agatha and enduring other horrible acts to be close to someone who approximates Guillame. At its best, this show reads like a trashy Netflix horror film, but at its worst, it asks you to excuse a torturer for being tortured.
A well-acted, well-designed and interesting production, Tom at the Farm is restricted by its heavy and unclear text. Perhaps best left for franco-cinephiles in 2013, it feels out of place in 2022.
Find out more about Fixed Foot Productions here. You can book tickets to Tom at the Farm at kingsxtheatre.com
Set Designer: Kate Beere Co-Lighting Designer: Kate Baldwin Co-Lighting Designer: Alice Stafford Composer and Sound Designer: Chrysoulla Markoulli Costume/Effects Design: Rachael Adamson Stage Manager: Christopher Starnawski Voice and Dialect Coach: Linda Nicholls-Gidley Movement/Fight choreographer/Intimacy coordinator: Diana Paola Alvarado Dramaturg: Jessica Bell
Producers Becky Matthews & Danny Ball Assistant Director Sean Landis Design Assistant Rachael Adamson Assistant Producers Rachael Adamson and Sean Landis
with Di Adams, Zoran Jevtic, Rory O'Keeffe and Hannah Raven