It’s 1962 and a university lecturer in Melbourne has been fired from his position due to having an affair with a student. A male student. As he packs his belongings, he ponders what the next chapter of his life will entail. Should he stay silent and continue living with his adoring wife or does he take a brave step forward and explore his feelings for Henry at a time when homosexuality is still illegal in Australia.
As William deals with the immediate repercussions of his relationship being uncovered, The Will To Be flashbacks to his life with Lola and his encounters with Henry. Mark Salvestro puts in an admirable performance as the educator, with his quivering voice, nervous disposition and hints of a longing to be himself. The way he describes his sexual encounter with Henry is suitably erotically awkward and very much in line with the character that is presented to us.
Salvestro’s writing is engaging and even with flashbacks to various events in William’s life, it remains clear as to where we are in this timeline. Unfortunately the lighting during these scenes is not as effective and its pronounced presence distracts us from what’s happening. William’s recollections are distinct and logical in how they are told, whereby the intimacy of the show can be maintained without the use of its current lighting design.
The concluding moments of the play however feel forced and unnatural with a resolution that doesn't sit right with what we have been watching unfold. The idea that William, who was just terminated from his job and pushed to tell his wife he is a homosexual, would immediately be overcome with this sense of power and liberation to challenge society seems unlikely. There’s nothing wrong with giving our protagonist a happy resolution but perhaps it needn’t be so jubilant.
With references to William Shakespeare’s work throughout the production, The Will To Be offers a fresh perspective on Australia’s history of homosexuality and the persecution that many faced. It’s an intelligently written story and with some changes to its ending has the potential to be an affecting look at our past.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: until 29 September | 7:00pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $35 Full | $31 Conc | $28 Group 6+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival
Image Credit: Sare Clarke