Tom At The Farm

Kate Young
3rd Sep 2022

Losing a loved one to death can be a shattering event. How does one grieve such a loss and comprehend the severing of that physical tie between one person to another?

Tom (played by Zoran Jevtic) is young gay man from Montreal who has traveled to a remote countryside in order to attend the funeral of his late lover Guillame, who was killed in a tragic hit and run accident. Hoping to find some comfort from his partners next to Kin. Arriving at the Family’s Dairy Farm, Tom is shocked to discover that his lover’s widowed mother, Agatha (Di Adams), has no idea who he is or of his relationship with the deceased. For Agatha believes her son was straight, convinced he had a girlfriend in the city named Natalie and is angry she hasn’t shown up. It soon becomes clear that Agatha’s other son, the live-at-home Francis (Rory O’Keeffe), has been carefully cultivating this ruse. He knows exactly who and what Tom is. Francis is an intimidating brute, who violently threatens Tom into playing along and as the lies build, the lines between reality and nightmares become more and more distorted.

At first Tom tries to Rebel, standing up against Francis’s blatant homophobia and wanting to tell Agatha the truth, but Francis tries to intimidate Tom, with ruthless force he ties him up, binding his wrists with rope and dragging him trough mud. You would think such treatment would send Tom running and yet the only thing he seems to be heading towards is Francis himself.

This is the Strange state Sara (Hannah Raven) aka Natalie aka fake girlfriend finds him, covered in bruises and raving like a lunatic about how he’s needed on the farm to help bring the lives of cow’s into the world. A colleague of both Tom and Guillame, she arrives as a favour to Tom, who has begged her to come and play the role of fluent French speaking, cigarette churning, distraught girlfriend as a means of putting some of Agatha’s doubts about her dead sons “relationship” to rest. However Natalie isn’t anything at all like the woman Agatha had imagined. Unable to convince Agatha, Sara starts spurting off a handful of nonsense phrases, causing a panicked Francis to banish her from the homestead and dispose of those that threaten to unravel the web of lies. Tension’s hit an all time high when veils fall and truths are reviled, and we find everyone is hiding something, even a dead man.

Produced by independent theatre company Fixed Foot and Directed by Danny Ball, Tom at the Farm is queer thriller that delves into major themes of grief, loss, repression, isolation, gender roles and what it means to grow up queer in rural communities. I thought the use of Traverse staging was very clever, allowing the audience to feel like a fly on the wall, looking in upon moments that we shouldn’t be part of, it made those more violent scenes between Tom and Francis even more unsettling. Moody lighting (Kate Baldwin and Alice Stafford) and a sparse set (a Kate Beere design) abled us to be transported to the Run down dairy farm and with simple bold coloured props such as that of a yellow plastic bowl or a burgundy Silk Blouse it was conveyed to the audience just how little life could be found here amongst these people.

Zoran Jevtic is excellent in evoking the complex play of emotions in Tom, from his first moments on stage you can feel the anguish of his grief, to his anger at having to play along that his lover had another, right up to the end your consumed by his desperation to belong and be loved.

Rory O’Keeffe’s character Francis is also complex, at first he comes across as a sullen thug, turning into a menacing coyote circling his prey. Hidden behind his aggression towards Tom is an attraction that he just can’t fathom nor does he want to. The Animal magnetism between these two is palpable; both are seeking what they’ve lost but what is that? Was it a brother? A lover? The question for both is not quite clear, the one thing prevalent to all characters in this play is they are all seeking to fill a void, even Agatha who from the first moment Tom arrives tells him he can take Guillame’s bed, already trying to fill the role of her lost son.

Looking warn down, Di Adam’s Agatha exists in a constant state of bewilderment, whether its over Natalie’s absence from the funeral or the enduring popularity of pasta salad, You would think this woman is completely out of the loop, but as the play unravels we come to understand that maybe her ignorance is actually a coping mechanism for the ugly truths that surround her for as they say Ignorance is bliss.

Given that this was a preview performance, I understand that this run through is a chance for tightening of any trouble area’s however I did find that there was a little inconsistency with a couple of the actors “character accents”, sadly this waver did throw me off a little as I felt I was being pulled out of being present and at times had to question where in fact the geographical setting of the play was. However the strong atmosphere created by cast and crew, I could be drawn back in pretty quickly.

Tom at the Farm remains fascinating, it's like a Greek tragedy, with a few twists and turns along the way. It has a strong commentary on what it means to be man and the gender roles we inflict upon young men especially those living in rural areas. In order to be a “man” one must act a certain way, dress a certain way, be a certain way and when you aren’t your feared or out casted. Love surprisingly enough, is a strong theme here and the extreme measures one will go to protect the ones they love.

“ We can all lend an ear to the pain of love, somehow, in some way, every day. Homosexuals learn to lie before they learn to love”

- Extract from Authors’ note, Michel Marc Bouchard 2012

Until 10 September KXT Kings Cross Theatre