At the Paris-Villette Theater, “Tom na fazenda”, a violent family settling of accounts like an uppercut

Armando Babaioff and Gustavo Rodrigues in the play “Tom na Fazenda”, in Brazil, on October 10, 2022.

No dead time or half measures. No tenderness or caress. Rage animates through and through this show created in 2017 in Brazil and which has never ceased to be played since. Success of the “off” Festival of Avignon in July 2022, he is back in France, on the stage of Paris-Villette, where the public attends a theatrical uppercut which has not been dulled. Rodrigo Portella, Brazilian director of the play Tom at the farm by Quebec author Michel Marc Bouchard, precipitates Tom na Fazenda (Brazilian title) at the heart of a brutality erected into an aesthetic gesture. This brutality is that experienced by Tom (Armando Babaioff), a young man devastated by the accidental death of his companion and trapped in a spider’s web stretched by the family of his lover: the mother (Soraya Ravenle), who ignores the homosexuality of his son, and the brother (Gustavo Rodrigues) who knew, but never said anything.

The set leaves no doubt about the tensions that will arise. Closer to a dance floor, even a boxing ring, than to the boards of a theatre, the space is covered with a dusty tarpaulin. On the sides, big black buckets wait to be emptied. It is Agatha, the mother, who takes care of it. She takes one of them, throws dirty water on the ground and then leaves the place. She has just prepared the ground for the struggle of men. She sits apart, her back turned to the audience as she turns them, no doubt, to the truth.

The drama is tied around fear, denial, desire. An explosive triptych with no prospect of appeasement. Hence the ferocity of a representation that takes the barbarity of bonds literally. When city-dweller Tom arrives at the family farm on the day of his lover’s funeral, he has no choice. ” Shut up ! »orders him Francis, the brother (a peasant farmer of cows), before dragging him into an ambiguous manly game where the blows dealt seem to be the reverse of repressed sexual urges. “Before learning to love, homosexuals learn to lie”, writes Michel Marc Bouchard in his preface. Tom is lying but so is Francis. His bestial behavior speaks volumes about the inner conflict that gnaws at him.

Ocher and muddy swamp

A mixture of sadism and masochism, humiliation and submission, attraction and repulsion, the play lays bare the cogs of a sensual and poisonous relationship that poisons the heads of the characters. Francis hits Tom. Tom cashes in, and he even wants more. In this improbable zone where the lie has the rigidity of an iron law, normality is disrupted. The show follows an entropic movement that leads to chaos. He leaves the shores of rationality to reach the shores of savagery. Where man equates enjoyment with death and where civilization gives way to the archaic. The plateau is transformed into an ocher and muddy swamp. The faces are drenched in sweat, the bodies stained with earth, the skin bruised, the spit fuses, the blood flows.

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