Friday, June 14, 2024





The Will To Be.

Written and performed by Mark Salvestro. Co-directed by Sarah Hallam and Phoebe Anne Taylor.Designer Carmody Nicol. Costume designer Oliver Ross. Sound designer Steve Carnell. Lighting designer Gerry Corcoran. Promotional Photography Sare Clarke. The Q Theatre. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Queanbeyan-Palerang. June 13-14 2024.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

It is said that Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel announced that what we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. Though there be truth in the statement, it is not always true. Mark Salvestro’s performance of homosexual William O Halloran during the 1960s is a moving case in point. As the play starts, O’Halloran is perusing a letter that tells him that his university tenure has been terminated one month before he is expected to receive a permanent lectureship in English Literature from his mentor, the head of the faculty. It has come to the attention of the university that O’Halloran has had a homosexual relationship with one of his students Henry, effecvtively ending his career and his marriage to his wife Lola. The Will To Be is O’Halloran’s struggle to confront the prejudice and discrimination that threaten to destroy his life and find the strength to assert his true self and his natural love.

Mark Salvestro as William O'Halloran

Progress is the teacher of the lessons of the past. The Will To Be is not a denial of the prejudice or discrimination that still exists. It is an expression of the courage and the struggle that could emerge from the stultifying bigotry of 1962 when the play is set and pave the way for activism, decriminalization, reform and pride in acceptance of identity. The Will To Be is a cleverly conceived, honestly directed and superbly performed reminder of a time not that long ago when gay love was branded a crime, shunned and shamed . Alone on stage, Salvestro masterly creates the scene between Henry and himself, succumbing to the student’s seduction as he traverses the Shakespearian tapestry of life’s experience. This is ingeniously scripted, embellishing O Halloran’s emotional complexity. He is gripped by the infatuation with the young Romeo, tormented by Hamlet’s grappling conflict with his desire, identified in Richard llls deformity, striving for the strength of resistance in Macbeth’s bloody resolve and finally inspired by Henry V’s rousing of the troops on Crispin’s Day. In Shakespeare the embattled academic learns the lesson of self esteem and acceptance and the will to be himself and declare himself before the world at the opening student performance of  Romeo and Juliet in which Henry stars as Romeo. As Shakespeare reminds us “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment”. (Sonnet 116)

Mark Salvestro in The Will To Be

Salvestro’s O’Halloran reaches deep into the recesses of our empathy. We feel for his predicament. We recognize the injustice and Salvestro’s performance ensures that we will not forget. Under co-directors Sarah Hallam and Phoebe Anne Taylor The Will To Be is a proud reinforcement of our humanity in all its guises and in which all and any love is the constant.

I leave the theatre admiring of and grateful for the struggles that men and women like William O’Halloran endured to teach us how to learn from our queer history. It is unfortunate that this excellent solo performance should have only one performance at The Q. It deserves a longer season of full houses.