While AFL and romance may be an unlikely combination, Become The One, directed by Lyall Brooks, brings the two together to highlight queer love on stage at Riverside.
Tom (Chris Asimos) is a closeted AFL player and a favourite to win the Brownlow. He hides behind masculine bravado and the expectations of who he is supposed to be. Dungaree wearing Noah (Mason Gasowski) is openly queer, quick-witted and very good at knitting. Tom hires Noah to clean his apartment, one thing leads to another, and Noah moves in two weeks later.
Written by Adam Fawcett, Become The One looks beyond the narrative of the high-profile sport star’s inability to come out and explores the toll it takes on the partner who supports the decision on the sidelines.
While the two find safety within the domestic sphere (cuddling on the couch whilst watching RuPaul’s Drag Race), the invasive presence of the outside world hangs over them as their relationship begins to buckle under the pressure of secrecy and the desire to live authentically.
The set is stripped back – an apartment covered in astro-turf (a pervasive reminder of the inescapable presence of footy in Tom’s life) decorated with only a luxe leather lounge and a blue bowl to catch the jangling keys which signal the departures from the private comforts of home into the reality of the public space.
Asimos and Gasowski have excellent chemistry as bantering boyfriends, infusing equal parts passion and humour into their partnership. They capture softer moments of affection and tenderness against the messy angst of domestic struggle. Asimos is charismatic as the well-intentioned footy player figuring things out and Gasowski is terrific balancing sarcastic quips with emotional beats.
The pacing of the play feels disjointed in some places; interrupted by long transitions between scenes (although to cater for an impressive number of costume changes) but Fawcett’s engaging staccato dialogue pushes the narrative on towards a climatic turning point.
Can queerness co-exist on the sports field where hypermasculinity is so strongly entrenched? While it’s a question interwoven into the play, the story is ultimately about two men who fall in love and learning to find the courage to reclaim who you are.