Aridhi Anderson is a theatre director, writer and performer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at thedaydream.in.
A compelling AFL love story
AFL superstar Tom Vardy, 29, has fallen for his cleaner Noah, 21, and within weeks the two have moved in together. Noah is openly gay, and is in tune with his feelings and his fashion sense. Tom is a poster boy for hypermasculinity, and is reluctant to acknowledge his sexual orientation even to himself. Become The One by Adam Fawcett is a moving and deeply realistic love story about two people who couldn't be more different from each other, and yet seem to each be exactly what the other needs.
The play is set in Tom's living room which is predominantly turf-themed, a reminder of the huge role that footy plays in Tom's life, and eventually in Tom and Noah's relationship. Most of the play consists of short scenes that tell the story of their relationship as it unfolds over a period of a few months, overlapping with most of the footy season. Tom's highest priority is to keep this relationship secret, because in his mind identifying as gay or bisexual feels incompatible with his life as an AFL player. (Playwright Adam Fawcett observes that in 2018, none of the 790 players listed on footy club lists openly identified as anything other than exclusively heterosexual). For Noah, being Tom's secret is both suffocating and demeaning, and he encourages Tom to be honest about who he is, and about who Noah is to him.
Tom's character is played to perfection by Chris Asimos, who portrays a nuanced picture of privilege. He simultaneously showcases a lifestyle of power, influence, the ease of wealth, and the blind spots that abound when one hasn't struggled through what others have; while also revealing a deeply vulnerable side, where his privilege has translated into pressure, and left him ill-prepared to decisively choose the life he wants for himself. Noah's character, played equally convincingly by Henry Strand, provides sharp contrast both in characterization and in subtlety. His character is more evenly portrayed throughout the play, having far more mental clarity about who he is and what he wants, and how he plans to get there. Asimos and Strand both have strong stage presence and share incredible on-stage chemistry, which makes for a compelling portrayal of this well-scripted love story.
Become The One is a play that isn't as much about the resolution of this particular story, as it is about an exploration of the issues within this sort of relationship. It invites insight into two completely different perspectives and imagines how they might interact - sometimes complementing and at other times clashing with each other. It's a play about possibilities and choices, about two people in love meeting each other where they're at, and growing together from there. It invites the audience along on their journey as they experience its natural peaks and troughs, both parties forgiving, navigating through, and working on complex issues, instead of simply sermonizing about what's right, or undermining what's not.
Overall, this play is a very satisfying experience, both intellectually and emotionally. It is a well-crafted work, solidly written and beautifully performed, which will resonate with footy fans and non-footy fans alike.