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The Will To Be - Melbourne Fringe Review

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by Mistress of Culture Vultures (subscribe)
I am a writer living in Melbourne who loves to devour culture and the arts. Visit me at www.pumptheatre.com.au
Event: -
The freedom to love behind closed doors
Do you remember your first love?

What about your first kiss?

Ever felt lost in a moment when time and space is suspended?

Mark Salvestro, Will to Be, Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, homosexuality, queer, lesbian, human rights, sexuality, marriage, plebiscite, law, Australia, theatre, political
The Will To Be by Mark Salvestro


It's 1962 in Sydney and William O'Halloran is a university English tutor with an obsession with Shakespeare. He is articulate and married, but incomplete – until a young Henry, an arts student, enters his office and asks him to coach him for the role of Romeo in a production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. From there a relationship ensues and William O'Halloran questions his identity as a married man who is homosexual.

Mark Salvestro, Will to Be, Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, homosexuality, queer, lesbian, human rights, sexuality, marriage, plebiscite, law, Australia, theatre, political
Mark Salvestro in 'The Will to Be' - photo by Sare Clarke Photography


It's not his wife Lola's fault this happened – she is a lovely lady – but wonders why they still don't have children. What will his family think when they find out? Homosexuality is still a 'dirty crime' and only 'emotionally weak' men seek it out. At least, that was the societal view back in 1960's Australia.

Where was the real Will hiding all this time? Maybe he wasn't - he just succumbed to the dominant culture and tried his hardest to be accepted, despite his inner yearnings to be loved by a man. What will be his fate thou Romeo?

Mark Salvestro, Will to Be, Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, homosexuality, queer, lesbian, human rights, sexuality, marriage, plebiscite, law, Australia, theatre, political
Mark Salvestro in 'The Will to Be' - photo by Sare Clarke Photography


The Will to Be is a beautifully crafted piece written and exceptionally performed by Mark Salvestro. It takes the Romeo and Juliet story and explores Shakespeare's words in the context of the Australian 1960's and William O'Halloran's life. Words written so long ago which still are relevant and applicable to the contemporary context.

Set in William O'Halloran's university office, the set and design and décor are exquisitely detailed and remnant of the era from a fob watch to a concertina fan collar, and an original 800 Series Automatic Color Fone telephone. O'Halloran sports a knitted cardigan, tweed coat and a classic moustache.

Mark Salvestro, Will to Be, Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, homosexuality, queer, lesbian, human rights, sexuality, marriage, plebiscite, law, Australia, theatre, political
Mark Salvestro in 'The Will to Be' - photo by Sare Clarke Photography


What is most appealing is Salvestro's emotional vulnerability on stage. He enacts O'Halloran's first meeting with Henry, the sexual tension, the romance of kissing him for the first time and the overwhelming emotions where time and place are suspended.

At times, it feels like an impost for the audience to be there in this private intimate moment – however this is the gift of The Will to Be as it shows the raw emotional connection of two human beings (regardless of gender identity) encountering each other for the first time.

After seeing The Will to Be you can understand and forgive O'Halloran and many men like him, as they were forced by the dominant culture to keep up the fasçade in heterosexual relationships, at family Christmas dinners, and even had children in those relationships to keep their partner happy. Worst still – if marriage wasn't an option – then celibacy was promoted, particularly in priesthood. Having to conform to societal expectations and never be able to freely and publicly express your true nature and love seems incredibly painful and a burden to carry. But many did and still do carry the pain of non-acceptance due to their sexual orientation.

Mark Salvestro, Will to Be, Butterfly Club, Melbourne Fringe Festival, homosexuality, queer, lesbian, human rights, sexuality, marriage, plebiscite, law, Australia, theatre, political
Mark Salvestro in 'The Will to Be' - photo by Sare Clarke Photography


The Will to Be is performed downstairs in The Butterfly Club which is a suitable venue for the themes in this work and play in the 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival until Sunday 29 September.

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*Mistress of Culture Vultures was invited as a guest
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Why? Learn about the history of gay rights in Australia
When: 7.00 pm
Phone: (03) 9663 8107
Where: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne, Vic, 3000
Cost: $28.00 - $35.00
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