INTERVIEW: Rory O’Keeffe & Tom at the Farm – “It’s going to move and challenge people”

Theatre Thoughts sits down with actor Rory O’Keeffe and discuss his role as Francis in the upcoming production of Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm at King’s Cross Theatre.

Directed by Danny Ball with Di Adams, Zoran Jevtic, Rory O’Keeffe and Hannah Raven

Tom arrives at a failing, isolated dairy farm in rural Ontario. It is the family property of his deceased partner, William, and he has come to attend the funeral. Before long, William’s mother, Agatha, and brother, Francis, draw Tom into a tragic, violent and sexually charged game of cat and mouse. Will Tom escape the farm, or will he continue the legacy of violence that has come before him?

Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm is a taut thriller that examines a family unable to grieve a tragic loss.

Can you tell me about the rehearsal process? What’s it been like bringing to life your character?

We’ve had quite some time to rehearse but it’s been a little on and off. It’s been nice because it’s given us time to work on the material and ruminate and find the layers to the characters. Personally, working with Francis [my character] there’s lots to kind of unlock with him, it’s certainly been a challenge in terms of understanding someone like Francis. You know he is a loner, he lives on a farm, he’s got lots of demons, so having that time in the beginning to just do that research and that work and now to put it back on the floor has been good.

The play itself has a lot of different themes to it. It’s not entirely comfortable because it deals with some hard-hitting themes. How did you enter Francis’ mindset in terms of confronting those themes in the play?

Reading it you’d think, why would anyone want to play this kind of guy? Trying to understand Francis as a person is interesting, he is a product of his environment. There’s a lot to look at in terms of our characters, Agatha [my mother] and Francis, being based in rural Ontario. In terms of the themes there’s a lot of violence, hate, there’s homophobia and looking at people and questioning how they think and that’s how they view the world being a product of their environment. But it’s not easy material, it’s challenging to try to understand people like that.

How would you want the audiences to react to the show itself?

Well, I think it’s going to move people and challenge people to a degree. All the wounds are close to the surface but there’s also a lot of beauty in there as well. It’ll be a bit of a rollercoaster, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, it’s unpredictable, meaningful, challenging, you may not want to hear a lot of the stuff but there’s purpose behind [Michel Marc Bouchard’s] writing.

So, with the play itself, you’ve talked about the confronting nature of it but is there a favourite part for you or something you find joy in?

Because the play is dealing with dark themes, there is a bit of humour in there. I have some favourite moments by Agatha, played by Di Adams who is playing my mother. She’s going on about this macaroni salad and it’s about her dealing with grief over losing her sons and how people behave when they’re dealing with grief. One of her lines is, “Flute music was nice”, and I’m like “Y-Yeah”, and she goes, “Someday she’ll be talented”, and it’s just one of those moments of comedy that’s interwoven in there that I find funny.

On that, how are you all working together as a cast to work comfortably with each other and protect each other through the process?

I feel like everyone is super generous and really listening. Anyone at any time can take the floor and talk about a few things and they’re supportive. A big part of the show is the energy and the tension within the show, so there is this sort of unspoken bonding that everyone’s been doing where we’re with each other in those moments, and there’s an unspoken energy that is so supportive. And you’re dealing with challenging stuff, emotional stuff, it’s not just your run-of-the-mill light-hearted comedy. You know, we’ll laugh and take our breaks and then get back into it.

What would you want the audience to take away from this production then?

I feel like every audience member will take away a different thing, which is a great part of this show. I think it’s going to make people think and it’s going to make people feel from both sides, positive feelings, and negative feelings. It is up to the audience what they walk away with in the end, based on their own personal experience.


Tom at the Farm runs from 26th August to 10th September 2022. Tickets can be booked here.

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