‘The Will To Be’: A compelling solo performance

‘The Will To Be’: A compelling solo performance
Image: Image supplied. Credit: Darren Gill

This post also appeared on the Star Observer.

Mark Salvestro wrote, produced and performs alone in this beautifully crafted, visceral story of a university lecturer who discovers true love, social rejection, and a new quest all at once.

It is 1962 and William O’Halloran (Salvestro) is a junior lecturer on the verge of gaining full tenure at a Melbourne university. He has been married, happily he believes, to his beautiful, intelligent wife, Lola for three years.

William lectures in English with Shakespeare being his specialty. He feels content, satisfied with life until a new student, Henry, shakes him out of his self-deception. Henry is exceedingly handsome and very forthright with his romantic inclinations towards William. An affair ensues and William is forced to confront his own truths and their consequences.

The Will To Be is told entirely through William’s eyes and yet, we are able to “see” the other characters through Salvestro’s convincing reactions and occasional role-playing. His detailed descriptions of particular incidents, especially his interactions with Henry, are so vivid it’s easy to visualise the scene.

The Will To Be
Image supplied. Credit: Ben Appleton | Photox – Canberra Photography Services

Salvestro gives an emotional tour de force which is often very confronting and moving. He cleverly incorporates Shakespeare texts in the monologue.

The set design by Carmody Nicol is simple but effective: a table laden with academic paraphernalia which is gradually removed as William packs his office up; a small bookshelf which includes an increasingly used bottle of whiskey; a coat stand.

William’s costume, designed by Oliver Ross, is a layered, typically conservative ensemble. It allows William to remove articles, then put them back on, not only during scenes of seduction but also to illustrate his tentative self-revelation.

The narrative is occasionally broken up with brief musical interludes which comprise pop songs of the era.

This show is currently on in The Substation, a unique new performance space which is part of Qtopia Museum. It’s a rustic, atmospheric room, although, alas, hard rain on the roof does make it challenging to hear the actor at times.

The Will To Be is only on for a short time and it’s definitely worth navigating the steep stairs into one of Sydney’s most esoteric theatres.

When? Until July 6
Where? The Substation, 301 Forbes St, Darlinghurst
Tickets? $38-42pp via Humanitix

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