In a time when homosexuality is being discussed more than ever before and masculinity redefined, Joe Christie’s choice to do Tom at the Farm with the EUTC could not be better timed.
The play follows Tom (Yann Davies) going to his boyfriend’s home following his tragic death, to find that his Mother, Agatha (Tilly Botsford), had no idea that her son was gay and that Tom was his lover. With 3 strong, convincing main characters from the outset, Tom at the Farm maps its trajectory of examining homosexuality, masculinity and grief itself at the very opening of the play. Francis (Peter Morrison), Agatha’s older son, begs Tom to keep the truth from his Mother which leads to Tom experiencing an internal conflict which he vocalises: one of the best parts was Tom’s thoughts being said out loud in between his conversing with Agatha; the contrast between the dialogues in Tom’s head and his conversation with Agatha not only capture the similarities in their grief, but also the heart-breaking struggle of what Tom really wants to say and what he actually ends up saying. This back and forth between Tom’s thoughts and what he really says continues for the whole play and is a great method in highlighting his inner struggle. Agatha also has a brilliant scene as she portrays her conflict with grief via a breakdown over potato salad (more than once this play injects humour at the best – and worst – moments).
Thus we follow Tom’s time at the farm as he deals with the grief of his loss. Every scene slides into another beautifully, from a discussion in the kitchen between the 3 characters to Tom wonderfully encapsulating all his feelings in a monologue within the first quarter of the play, where he recalled speaking – or rather lying – to people at the funeral. He simultaneously conveyed the pain of having to cover up the depths of his grief over the death coupled with the even huger lie of who he really was, which in many ways is portrayed as more of a difficult struggle throughout the play.
As the plot progresses, the audience are exposed to a deeper exploration of homophobia and masculinity; Francis is hostile to Tom at first, constantly threatening him in order to keep the truth from his Mother and initially appears to be homophobic himself. However as the relationship grows between him and Tom, the audience see Francis’ anger is rooted in his own struggle with sexuality and masculinity. The tension between Francis and Tom reaches its height when the two spontaneously dance together in the barn, demonstrating not only the tension of anger between the two, but also the psychosexual tension that has been developing. Francis’ struggle is fantastically played throughout and perfectly illustrate the struggles many men have with the small fit stereotypical masculinity offers, as well as the question of what it is to be masculine. Agatha and Francis laugh at a promiscuous joke Tom makes about his boyfriend and the girl he was supposedly seeing, and suddenly shouts in his mind about the constant lying he has to do; the juxtaposition is brilliantly played by all the 3 characters and shows what similar yet individual experiences they are going through.
The lighting and smoke effects of the show were simple yet highly effective in their purposes, particularly in the conclusive scene where Tom narrates what he does to Francis, with eerie music growing louder and smoke growing thicker in a blue haze as both men meet their pitiful fates. If you want to experience laughter, heartbreak and be left with pending questions of today’s world in your head, Tom at the Farm will not disappoint.
Guest Reviewer – Vaishnavi Ramu