‘This is the narrative: men fuck women’
Thomas Froy’s new play, Hommo, is upfront and transparent regarding its purpose. It is an exploration of the arch maleness that has come to pervade our society and the refusal to show emotion and thus weakness. The program notes contain recollections from various men about the last time they cried; the replies are varied but all seem to share the same refusal to publicly show vulnerability. This theme is then carried on throughout the narrative, the characters teetering on the brink of revelation but nether willing to take the risk and reveal their true feelings, instead choosing to hide behind aggression and stereotypical male violence. This is amply demonstrated in Home, the plot opens with two roommates discussing the murder of a woman. Simultaneously, one begins dating another woman, the two storylines coming together, the discussion of the two becoming indistinguishable, violence and romance becoming synonymous.
The two actors grow into their roles, Sam Ebner-Landy’s portrayal of the insistent L vs. Eric Alstead’s highly strung R created a palpable tension between the two that made it almost uncomfortable to watch in the small space. Although directed in a highly stylised way, the dialogue was naturalistic, the two seeming at odds with one another but also fitting for the minimalistic setting. Nothing was extraneous, but nothing was subtle; the brightly coloured water pistols arranged around the set drew the eye, the punch bag and boxing gloves arranged in a phallic shape centre stage immediately force the audience to recognise the analogy of using violence to disperse homoerotic tension. The condoms seem superfluous and feel shoe horned into the drama; after the murder has successfully been committed, they are sprinkled across the stage and the two actors sit there, breathless in a post coital state, the prolonged analogy of murder and the relationship between the two men consummated and complete.
At 45 minutes, it’s short, and the action moves along, single vignettes captured in the panopticon of the lives of the two men adding to the narrative. There are moments that do feel like padding – with snappier scene changes and by removing some of the extraneous dancing, it would be more streamlined, succinct and successful.
At moments, it seems to wander. The scene changes were slightly clunky, with prolonged blackouts interrupting the flow of the dialogue and the rapport established between the characters. The curious dancing at the beginning and end also detracted from the flow of the narrative; however, the musical sequence at the play’s centre encapsulated the crux of the drama; L’s watching of R as they exercised together was very much the focus, the actors maintaining eye contact throughout to heighten the tension between them. However, this again could have been narrowed down; a moment mirroring an airport pat down didn’t seem to make sense other than being a gratuitous moment to demonstrate the sexual tension between the characters.
In the first half, the blackouts were interspersed with male heavy breathing which was then dropped in the latter part of the production. It didn’t add much to the plot, and only served to make the transitions feel clunkier, overtly pointing the audience towards a judgement as to what was going on rather than allowing them their own interpretation of it. The same could be said of the dialogue between L and R when they contemplate the gun. It is described in phallic terms, the analogy feeling heavy handed; as an audience member, it felt as though you couldn’t be trusted to draw your own conclusion from the action, which was frustrating.
There are some moments that could be promising and the performances given by the two actors initiate and maintain good tension throughout the 45 minutes. Although there are slumps, much unspoken seems to pass between the two men making up for holes in the dialogue.
Ultimately, it feels as though more research is needed to make the show better rounded. It would have been nice to see the sentiments recorded in the program mirrored in the dialogue; something more verbatim and real.