Penned by Québec’s own Michel Marc Bouchard and first staged in French at Montreal’s Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in 2011, “Tom Na Fazenda / Tom à la Ferme” returns to home soil this year at the Festival TransAmériques in a visceral new theatrical adaptation by Brazilian company Galharufa Produções.
Directed by Rodrigo Portela and translated from the original script into Portuguese by Armando Babaioff (who also features as the eponymous Tom), the production has already garnered widespread public and critical acclaim, amassed major industry awards in Brazil, and now makes its grand North American premiere at the 12th edition of the FTA. Thoroughly resonant with its themes of oppression, discrimination, and acceptance, Bouchard’s thunderous work once again proves a timely, necessary piece on a silent epidemic that transcends borders.
After the unexpected passing of his 25-year-old lover, the urbane advertising executive Tom makes his way to a countryside community to attend the funeral. Upon arriving to meet the deceased’s relatives for the very first time, he is conflicted to discover that the mother, Ágata, knows nothing about his existence or her late son’s homosexuality, and that a brother, Francis, knows everything but has chosen to veil his sibling’s history – along with an obscure, defamatory secret of his own.
Threatened by Francis to withhold the truth from Ágata and embraced by the latter as a surrogate son in her grieving, Tom suddenly finds himself held captive at the farm, entangled in a cobweb of lies and stories to feed the family’s idealized construct of their dead kin. What begins as visit to deliver a eulogy at a burial takes a dramatic turn that spirals downward into a human pit of mud and blood.
Presented on a barren, dirt-blanketed stage to evoke the austerity of the remote and the rural (the set design is by Aurora dos Campos) and making use of minimal scenographic elements (most notable are Tomás Ribas’s exquisite pools and mists of lighting), the resourceful “Tom na Fazenda” lives and thrives on Bouchard’s vivid script and the raw emotional and physical commitment of its stellar acting ensemble (Armando Babaioff, Kelzy Ecard, Camila Nhary, and Gustavo Vaz). The intensity of performance is unrivalled on the contemporary stage, and it is sublimely precise as it is unprocessed.
Brutality is deftly balanced with humour in the fast-paced narrative – one of the more classically structured among the FTA offerings – which has Tom and his tortuous push-pull relationship with the abusive Francis at its marrow. Their ferocious exchanges and encounters are at once savage and sensual, making for an enigmatic psycho-thriller that progressively unsettles as it seduces.
The pressing question that recurrently arises, however, is: even after being mocked, scorned, soiled, and beaten, why doesn’t Tom leave the farm? What unravels is a fascinating close-up on the fragile, frayed ends of lives frazzled by loss, which, in their need for connection and continuity, attempt to find and hold on to a common thread.
The stirring production comes at a time when Brazil holds the highest LGBTQ+ murder rate in the world (at least 445 citizens died as victims of trans and homophobia in 2017*). Despite the nation’s widely storied image as a warm, open, and tolerant society, a country that seemingly nurtures freewheeling expressions of sexuality by annually broadcasting its Carnaval festivities and the world’s largest gay pride parade, it continues to mask its rampant anti-gay violence. For perpetrators, indeed “the aim is not merely to deny their existence but to destroy them.”
Spectacularly gutsy and gritty, Tom na Fazenda is a categorical highlight at this year’s FTA. Don’t miss its third and final performance at Montreal’s Maison Théâtre on Sunday, June 3rd at 3:00 pm.
Editor’s note: “As a Brazilian transplant in Montréal for nearly a decade now, covering this stellar production at the FTA has been one of the greatest rewards of my career. The violence depicted in ‘Tom na Fazenda’ is no far dramatization of reality. I have seen it in homes, schools, and workplaces. I argue that these acts are not necessarily hate crimes, but fear crimes – fear of the unknown, of loss, of change, and even of love itself. I am deeply moved to see this story being told on world stages and that this conversation is being had. Witnessing a full house collectively jump to its feet on opening night for five rounds of bows reassures me I am not singular in my enthusiasm, respect, and gratitude for this production.”
Com muito amor e orgulho,
– Camila Fitzgibbon
The 12th Edition of the Festival TransAmériques presents
Tom na Fazenda
Written by Michel Marc Bouchard
Directed by Rodrigo Portela
Featuring: Kelzy Ecard, Armando Babaioff, Camila Nhary, Gustavo Vaz
245, Ontario East Street
June 1st and 2nd* at 8 pm + June 3rd at 3 p.m.
*Meet the artists after the performance
Running time: 2h00
Language: In Portuguese with English and French surtitles
Admission: $39 to 45
514 844 3822 | 1 866 984 3822 | www.fta.ca