A/S/L? [by James Wenley]
One of the oldest forms of human communication meets one of its newest in I love you bro. And they aren’t much different at all.
Silo Theatre’s current offering launches its 'Second Cousin’ brand where they can “muck around with conventions to create work which is decidedly new and unlike anything you’ll see in our mainbill repertoire”. Rising stars Tim Carlsen (actor) and Sophie Roberts (Director), last paired together for ‘One Day Moko’ at the Basement Theatre, get given the keys to the Silo Theatre and go wild. What they and their creative team make together with Australian Adam J.A. Cass’s play is just as good as any mainbill season, and I think theatre more relevant, more urgent, more today.
Other than a lone doorframe to define the space, and a chair, there’s not much of a set to speak of. There are some well-judged lighting state changes, but I Love you bro really is theatre at its purest – Tim Carlsen walks down the Herald Theatre stairs into the space, and shares a story with his audience.
And the story is a remarkable, truly unbelievable one. Except it happened. “Based on a (totally) true story” says the programme:
..After constructing a fantasy world of girls, spies and villains in an MSN chat room, a lonely 14-year-old was found in a deserted alley with nearly fatal stab wounds. He survived, only to be convicted of inciting his own murder, in a stunning case that Britain still doesn’t fully understand.
Tim Carlsen is charming and really proving himself one to watch, particularily skilled at his characterisation. We have affection for his Johnny, the 14 year old at the centre of it all, and cheer his early online triumphs and sexual discoveries. The marketing makes no secret of the play’s conclusion, and we know where it is going. But it’s the getting there that is everything, and this delivers.
Theatre is the perfect medium to tell this story. Carlsen takes us in an out of narration, playing Johnny and inhabiting and personifying all the different online identities that Johnny creates, with even some choreographed movement thrown in. It turns out the real Johnny (not his real name) was something of a master dramatist, constructing identities and scenarios so vivid and that Mark (also not his real name) would ultimately try and kill him. Johnny’s medium was not the play script, but the (un)real world of MSN chatrooms.
By adapting this story to theatre, we see what could be a ‘dangerous new world’ of technology is only a new form of empowering what we have always done. He wants to communicate, to be heard, to be acknowledged. Online he finds he can be whoever he wants to be, with freedom to find his own identity and try out new ones. A/S/L is fluid. Just like the theatre then. But as he gets consumed in his fiction, and his thrill seeking needs to be pushed even further to get the desired rush, this newer medium can’t always be simply turned off…
I love you bro is presented by Silo Theatre and plays at the Herald Theatre until 20th August.
More information from The Edge website.