Become The One
July 14, 2021
“I don’t want to be the one!”
A line, cried with desperate anguish by Tom, a closeted star AFL player as he grapples with the daunting prospect of visibility in IO Performance’s latest outing, Adam Fawcett’s Become the One. Become the One is an intimate examination of the many layers to a perceived illicit relationship in the hyper masculine world of sport, especially the AFL. It reflects for everyone, the personal conflict we confront when faced with an opportunity to do the right thing in opposition to the self-preserving actions we have cultivated in an environment where visible difference can lead to repercussions and intolerance.
Skilfully directed by Daniel Story, Become the One divulges the intimate relationship between Tom (Leigh Oswin) and Noah (Travis Hennessy) as they fall for each other, and it accentuates Tom’s tumultuous journey to accepting his own personal identity. As the relationship gets more comfortable behind closed doors for Tom, Noah’s frustration at his invisibility outside of his home becomes unmistakeable. This frustration produces betrayals and deniability, with feeble attempts at solace and intimacy that takes an evident toll on the wellbeing of the relationship. As the relationship continues, and Tom’s desire for a future outside of footy comes into focus, his concerns surrounding becoming visible are suddenly formidable and demands he take a stand. To “Become the One”; the first openly gay player in the AFL, and instigate change, celebrate difference and inspire a new generation.
Daniel Story’s direction isn’t flashy, nor does it require it to be; set inside a single room, the lack of setting changes reinforces the “closeted” perception of the relationship. This enhances the ability to be very “public” with the level of intimacy we see. This allows for Story to focus his direction upon the two actors, and he enables two seasoned veterans of Launceston theatre to turn in two of their most accomplished performances. Leigh Oswin’s Tom perpetuates the overtly masculine stereotype of a sportsman with an awkwardly phoney and at times, hilarious overcompensation. But it relaxes as his comfort and acceptance of his own identity become more apparent to him. Tom’s physicality looks falsified which is entirely the point, as his desire to hide himself behind the heteronormative mindset of his industry peers influences his decisions. But Oswin provides a refined humility to Tom, taking a seemingly cocky and arrogant “star footballer” and enshrining him with compassion and layered personal conflict.
Travis Hennessy administers a hilariously snide and snappy Noah from the outset; the interplay between Noah and Tom upon their first meeting is gleefully incompatible, but this ensures their journey together is substantially more rewarding. However, as Noah invests more into the relationship, his flamboyant physicality and demeanour is diminished, and a rigidity is expanded upon. This ostensibly is due to Noah’s constant awareness of his invisibility. Hennessy produces moments of poignancy in the mundane; his jealousy over an ex-girlfriend who can’t knit is particularly memorable, and then delivers with moments of purely heart-breaking struggle.
Both actors tackle the sentimental aspects of the journey with an abounding truth that fails to descend into melodrama; while maintaining the delirious fast paced dialogue that crackles along with wit and hilarity. The script is strikingly modern and brilliantly funny.
The set design was simple and elegant and cleverly incorporated the digital space into the production. My only criticism would fall on the length and frequency of the scene changes. Understandably these moments were utilised to cover costume changes, however the looped footage of the AFL along with the repetitive commentary seemed to be a fraction too long. Their drawn-out length transformed the footage and soundscapes originating as something that covered transition, into material of substance. I found myself musing on the significance of what was being projected and spoken, but immediately upon discovery that the same commentary and footage was being repeated, the changes became a break in the flow of the production that could have been lessened dramatically.
The representation of queer stories like Become the One are essential and vital to the ongoing fight for visibility and diversity in all facets of society, not just in our theatre community. The culture of Australian theatre is developing, and stories of diversity are being told in a greater extent. What I found the most fascinating in Become the One, and significantly different to other texts, is that it is a script that uses the ambition for visibility to highlight the reality of invisibility. We don’t often see shows that really cast the spotlight on the difficulties of taking that first step to being seen. Significantly, this has Become the One to do it.
Review By Matt Taylor