Theatre Review: Become The One (Riverside Theatre, Sydney) ★★★★

With footballers like Australia’s Josh Cavallo and the UK’s Jake Daniels bravely coming out, the timing of the return run of Adam Fawcett’s 2019 play Become The One couldn’t be better. How does a relationship work when one of you stays in the closet? What’s the impact on your other relationships? How long can it all last?

Twenty-something Noah (Mason Gasowski) works as a housecleaner for ‘high profile’ clients. Mainly because he’s professional, but also because he doesn’t really care about fame. When he’s sent to the home of Tom (Chris Asimos), a professional footballer, his lack of interest in sport is evident. But as Tom starts showing an awkward interest in Noah things turn around, and the pair start a discrete relationship. 

Chris Asimos and Mason Gasowski in Become The One. Photo by Jodie Hutchinson.

The proudly gay Noah is constantly probing Tom to think about his position, his privilege and his sexuality in ways he hasn’t before; it’s clear Noah is conflicted about the relationship. Is he enabling a system that forces bisexual Tom into the closet by staying silent? But then… look at him… Tom has more muscles than all of RuPaul’s Pit Crew combined. What does Noah tell his family? How does Tom react when his teammates learn he has a flamboyant ‘flatmate’?

Together Gasowski and Asimos hold the stage and make for a fun and lovable duo. Noah’s slightly nervous energy collides with Tom’s innate confidence; they are equals and opposites in many ways. Gasowski knows how to layer a performance with micro-moments of emotion, managing to show Noah’s mental state move from surprise to confusion to questioning to lust then back to analysis and defensiveness with ease. I wish more performances I’ve seen recently were this nuanced, human and engaging. Asimos is at once a physical brute of a man but behind the eyes there is a clear pain and longing, a childlike desire to please, wrapped in the body of a Greek god.

Chris Asimos and Mason Gasowski in Become The One. Photo by Jodie Hutchinson.

With UK footballer Jake Daniels recently becoming the UK’s first male professional footballer to come out publicly, joining the likes of other recent high profile role models like Australia’s Josh Cavallo and USA’s Carl Nassib, as well as the Tony-nominated production Take Me Out currently playing in New York, the topic of gay professional athletes is in the air.

Fawcett’s play dances around the issues with a light touch, this is as much a comedy as it is drama. If you’re looking for diatribes of emotional distress and the torment of hiding one’s true self, then this isn’t the play for you. If you want a laugh and some cute romantic misfires wrapped in a domestic drama then you’re on the money. This show is funny, mining the awkward moments for comedy, and an entertaining night at the theatre.

Chris Asimos and Mason Gasowski in Become The One. Photo by Jodie Hutchinson.

I do wish the topics were examined with the same energy as the humour was. The mental and emotional gymnastics required to live under the spotlight in an often homophobic environment do get short shrift. Just as scenes start building up a head of steam they end, with the sheer number of scenes and scene-changes robbing the show of some of its energy.

The sporting theme and two-hand structure bring to mind John Donnelly’s more energetic and chaotic play/film The Pass, which takes a longer, darker look at the material. In comparison, Become The One is the lighter, easier version to watch and quite possibly, the more enjoyable of the two.

Become The One is great fun. Sexy and sweet, it takes you on an emotional journey carried by two terrific performers and deserves a much longer return season. 

By Chad Armstrong

Become The One plays at Riverside Theatres, Sydney until Saturday May 21st before touring to Canberra.

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