“Tom in the Country” by Michelle Mark Bushard, director. Wojtek Rodak TR in Warszawa. Castina Kozlovska writes on the portal Teatrologia.info.
Photo by Maurycy Stankiewicz
Michelle Mark Bouchard, Canadian playwright, Tom is in the village wrote in French more than a decade ago. In 2013, a drama-based film by Javier Dolan (who also starred) was made. The play was staged by TR Warszawa by Wojciech Rodak, translated into English by Jacek Kaduchak. That’s it By Linda Gaboriau. Rodak is a laureate of last year’s Debut TR Award given by the theater at the Young Directors’ Forum in Krakow. He made his directorial debut in 2020 Sailor Szaniawski was filmed on stage at Jerzy Szaniawski Walbrzych.
Bouchard’s drama tells the story of Tom, who comes to the funeral after the sudden death of his girlfriend and stays in his family’s country house. He also wants to meet with the family of the deceased. Because his brother did not accept homosexuality, his partner did not have close contact with his mother and brother, and the mother did not have to learn that her youngest son was gay.
A key element of Katarzyna Pawelec’s set design is a home-shaped screen with a cut-out slot for the kitchen where the table stands. There is a microphone on the side and a mattress with Tom’s bed. On the other hand, there is a village well with a turnstile, which acts as a church with a statue of Mary hanging from a chain, as well as a cemetery chapel. The play begins when Tom (played by Mateusz Gorsky) sits at a table in an empty house and looks at the stains on the table. He wears a “city”, ie hipster: red extravagant shoes, black leather jacket, thick hair on his head. Mother Agatha (Maria Maj) is not surprised when she sees a stranger in her house, but is curious. She gives the impression that she is waiting for someone from her late son’s city life. In this scene and in the funeral scene, the two plans of Tom’s speech are intertwined. Whether he speaks aloud or speaks to Agatha, he maintains the same tone. The only difference is that the partner stops being honest when he addresses his mother. In the introduction to the play, which he quotes from the program, Bouchard writes, “Homosexuals learn to lie before they learn to love. We are brave mythologists “- these words should become the motto of Rodak’s game. Much of Tom’s stay in the village is remembered with lies. Although he does not want to hide his relationship with the deceased, he cannot get rid of the family’s fears and expectations after meeting his older brother, Francis (Jacek Beler).
Although Agatha is vague, it is a moving role (of course, it is difficult to shake the impression that Maja in this role refers to Daniel’s gay grandmother in the film. All our fears). He wears heavy boots suitable for living and farm work (he has 48 dairy cows), but his distinguishing feature is mainly aprons, with special sticks on his shoulders (Marta Shipulska’s costumes). Agata is a villager: harsh, straight, and sometimes rude when she laughs at her son’s alleged lover or Tom’s perversion watching her ass. He is no doubt interested in her. At first, it seems that he wants to keep her at home for a long time, to spend some time with his son’s friend, to get acquainted with his late son. Then it turns out that Tom works well as a companion toy for a farm worker and his eldest son. It is also necessary for Tom to be able to present himself as a family idyll – he still has two sons with him. One day Francis will admit how beautiful it was when he opened the door to his son’s room in the morning and saw two little boys lying in their beds, as in the old days. So it becomes pathological and horrible (the atmosphere on the farm is sometimes similar to the atmosphere in the movie Bad house Smarzowski), but Maria Maj immediately escapes the farm’s devil’s scheme. As for her dead child, she is a noble and courageous mother who suffers after the loss.
Francis (Jack Beler’s good role) also looks like a thriller character. He also wears heavy boots and a reversible vest (on the other hand, he makes the audience laugh because the vest has cow motifs on it). The head is shaved (here the associations are more serious). Beler created a figure that is difficult to decipher. After the death of his father, Francis looks after the farm. She takes care of her mother and tries to erase from her life everything that might bother her (the news that her other son is gay). He keeps his mother in the dark for a reason, pretending to have a younger brother’s lover. Francis Belera is brutally simple, but at the same time looks lost and lonely. The fact that Tom was hated at first changes something about him. He needs her because no one else in the village is talking to him. He will tell Thomas what he did years ago: about the ugliness of young Paul – his brother’s first love. He opened his face in disgust. In Xavier Dolan’s film, Francis (played by Pierre-Yves Cardinal) was intelligent, cruel, aggressive and satanic. Closing to himself, he was already terrified by his eyesight. Beler wants to keep some subtleties in her character, for example, when Tom is happy to touch the cow with love, or when he shows the girl the red shirt he bought years ago. It seems that there is a crack in him, his relationship with his brother’s lover develops to the point of aggressive rejection and cruelty. However, he remains brutal – the bruises on Tom’s body will prove.
In city life, Tom worked as an assistant creative director of an advertising agency. In the village she changes, symbolized by her dress. He still wears stage pants at the funeral, but later, when he starts working on the farm, he will wear clothes suitable for milking cows. For a moment he will wear a red silk shirt designed for Francis’ future daughter, and finally the dress will resemble his situation as a slave on the farm and in life: chains, torn shirts and bruises. Tom Gorsky in the play is immature, selfish and very young. This young lifestyle does not convince Gorsky when he talks about his past relationships, when he turns poetic and lofty expressions about loss, pain, and says that “part of me is dead” with the death of his lover. Tom is fascinated by village life, the savagery and insults he experiences here. Francis sees his late lover (same eyes, smell), becomes addicted to her, and easily tolerates a sadistic, emotional relationship based on violence.
The scene, invented by Tom’s fired colleague Nathalie or Sarah, is a repetition of the opening scene as Tom sits at a table in an empty kitchen. Now Sarah is at the table, and Agatha will meet her in the same way with interest and anticipation. Sarah, played by Isabella Dudziak, brings invigorating energy and humor to the show. She came to the village and agreed to play the role of the deceased’s lover in front of Agata. Dressed in a red dress, he does not look like a mourner. He has to speak only English, and since neither the mother nor the son understands the language, his performance quickly becomes a farce. Maybe, as Tom says, Sarah isn’t very smart, but Isabella Dudziak has given her character honesty and empathy in real life. Sarah feels bad when she plays a joker (admittedly, the actress plays in English, she’s a great joker), and she’s worried about cheating. Dudziak is expressive, very specific, which makes the scenes unforgettable with his presence.
Rodak’s game has many pleasant moments based on convention and simplicity, for example, Francis gives birth to a calf. A man in long red gloves sits on a bucket and pours his hands on the liquid. Moving and playing without pathos is a scene in which Agata exposes the play of Francis, Tom and Sara. With them, his treasure – a shoebox where his son’s sentimental memories are stored – sits at a table in pain and frustration, slowly discovering the lies of everyday life. He asks a number of questions: why doesn’t Sarah behave properly, why doesn’t she mourn, why doesn’t she bring flowers … There are many questions and they ask the most important question – who died. was his son.
The performance lasts more than two hours and is played continuously. Some scenes are very long, such as dance scenes (although Gorsky and Beler dance effectively in the play). There is no need to add fragments from the drama book All the energy I put into life. LGBTQ + people’s expressions, accounts, diaries (Character Publishing 2022). Maria Maj, sitting alone at the table, reads the selected accounts. Bushard’s art is consistent, rich in content and emotion, and the director and actors have used it carefully. Drama defends itself, tells a specific story, so the additions in the form of other texts on the same issue seem to be overly zealous and tiring. In a description of the play posted on the theater’s website, the authors say they want to “overcome the image of a gay victim.” Maybe it happened, because all the heroes here are victims of lies, fear and confusion.