Three to a Room

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Three to a Room ...

    Three to a Room’s I Love You, Bro Reviews

    Current as at January 2009

For press enquiries, please contact Charlotte Strantzen


    Phone: 0417 303 404

Edinburgh Fringe 2008. Ruth Johnston, Three Weeks (20th August, 2008)

Incorporating text speak, Ash Flanders' Johnny tells the story of how he got caught in a fatalistic

    web of deceit, his brilliantly written words deeply uncomfortable as they explore forbidden desire,

    obsession and hatred. Based in the hermetically sealed world of Internet chat-rooms, this moving

    tale of unrequited love and loneliness delivers a subtle yet powerful warning against modern

    communications: Once in the ether, words can not only become manipulated, but also

    meaningless. Flanders is mesmerising, giving an almost hypnotic performance that lends 'I Love

    You, Bro' a lyrical quality. His nervy, yet assured, pulsating and visceral delivery had me hanging

    on Johnny's every word, and it is by far and away the best acting I have seen so far this festival.

Edinburgh Fringe 2008. Jodie Fleming, Scotsgay (15th August, 2008)

This is the true story of a 14 year old boy who discovers his sexuality in an internet chat-room. As

    he indulges in on-line chat with one of his town's footie players, he finds himself mistaken for a

    female and makes the decision not to correct the mistake. The relationship escalates to one-

    sided cyber cam sex, and before Johnny knows it he finds himself inextricably drawn into a full-

    blown and dangerous infatuation.

It's the performance by Ash Flanders which brings this show to the heights of greatness. I can't

    imagine any other actor who would play the part of Johnny better than Flanders, who adopts the

    increasingly unhinged persona perfectly. His performance is convincing, emotive and sparklingly

    brilliant as he transports the audience into Johnny's head as he experiences the full spectrum of

    emotions this young lad undergoes in the lead-up to the planning of his own death.

Edinburgh Fringe 2008. Oliver Farrimond, Festmag (13th August, 2008)

Based on real events in Greater Manchester in 2003, I Love You Bro is a dark, disquieting tale of

    sexual fixation and the enormous power of the internet as a tool of deception. The story was

    originally brought to light in a Vanity Fair article, and this year's Fringe adaptation represents only a

    small part of the true events which astonished police officers and judges.

Told in panted monologue and with an omnipresent grin, the talented Ash Flanders delivers a

    script couched in chat-room neologisms with a morbid vigour that suggests bigger things to come

    for the young actor. A projected pastel backdrop that shifts as the tale unfolds does much to

    effectively conjure the malleable online world that Johnny inhabits. The portentous air of

    foreboding is intensified by frequent allusions to Romeo and Juliet, with snapshots of a hellish

    domestic life permitting glimpses of a human dimension to the protagonist's warped mind. The

    brief moments of tittered relief are, more truthfully, valves for nervous tension as the play becomes

    increasingly macabre and Johnny's deceit plumbs new depths of manipulation and sadism.

As the narrative unfolds and Johnny begins to flirt with a psychosis beyond erotic obsession, fictive

    personas are killed off and his victim becomes embroiled in a finale so horribly ruinous that the

    audience leaves the theatre stupefied and mute. A fervent production from the deservedly lauded

    Three To A Room theatre company, this is powerful, gripping theatre at its best.

    ABN: 21 197 300 729 Mail: Unit 3, 6 Cedar Crt Swan Hill VIC 3585 Web: Email:

    Three to a Room’s I Love You, Bro Reviews

    Current as at January 2009

Edinburgh Fringe 2008. David Mountford, Fringe Review (6th August, 2008)

Wow. Strap yourself in for this one. It's a white knuckle ride into the (true) dark side of teenage

    web chat fantasy, played with terrific, feral intensity by the alarmingly talented Ash

    Flanders. This dark, claustrophobic and almost unbearably tense hour is written by Adam

    Cass. It started life as a film script, based on the true story of a teenage boy from a small town

    near Manchester in 2003 becoming embroiled in an online love affair, which ended in him

    manipulating and deceiving the object of his online affection into trying to murder him.

This monologue is a revelation; for those of us old and stupid enough to have never really

    bothered with the chatroom phenomenon (this reviewer doesn't even belong to facebook), it is a

    fascinating look at the subculture and terminology of chatrooms, and is a convincing expose of the

    dangers to be found therein, especially for confused, emotionally disturbed teenagers. The

    quality of the writing is first class, and driven with a kind of urgent, obsessive vernacular

    that quickly fleshes out the subject, Johnny, before plunging us headlong into his vortex of online

    love, and the furious invention of shifting identities and events that he uses to ensnare

    his unwitting, credulous lover.

The audience, too, is manipulated, swung between sympathy for Johnny's desperate

    love, and disgust at the length s to which he will go to deceive Mark, the football playing golden

    boy who arouses his passions. The staging is spare, with computer generated backdrops playing

    over Johnny's face or framing his lithe, awkward body as it twists in the rising agony of his

    despair, becoming slowly trapped in the arabesques of his plotting and obsession.

A real psychological thriller, Flanders and Cass together create the online characters real and

    imagined so well that, like Johnny, the audience starts to forget that there is only one person

    there. A monologue, yet truly an utterly successful, vital piece of true theatre. Go see.

Edinburgh Fringe 2008. Robin Barton, Broadway Baby (13th August, 2008)

In his program notes, writer Adam J. A. Cass remarks this one-person show is based on ―a boy

    who is out there somewhere‖, the ―out there‖ being cyber space. Though based on a true story,

    he says that this can only be his, the director's (Yvonne Virslk) and the actor's (Ash Flanders)

    version of events. No matter what a version, and what incredible events.

The script is brilliant, combining youth-speak, web-speak and not a little lyricism. The direction is

    well paced, but the afternoon belongs to Flanders who is just astonishing. He started a bit fast,

    and was hard to understand at first (his accent seems to meander across hemispheres at times!)

    but once he is into his stride he is mesmeric, funny, heartbreaking and at times really frightening.

And I guess that's really what this tale is about. The internet, the web, cyber space they're

    remarkable tools for work and pleasure. But Pandora's box has been opened. It can never be

    closed. If a fourteen year old boy can cause the chain of events depicted in this play without

    leaving his bedroom, then the world is a much scarier place than it has ever been before.

    ABN: 21 197 300 729 Mail: Unit 3, 6 Cedar Crt Swan Hill VIC 3585 Web: Email:

Three to a Room’s I Love You, Bro


    Current as at January 2009

Edinburgh Fringe 2008. Beth Friend, What’s on Stage (11th August, 2008)

Adam J. A. Cass' sinister tale exposes the dangerous and immersive world of internet

    communication. Told by fourteen year old Johnny, a calculating chat rooms addict, I Love You,

    Bro bravely explores the corrupting force of unrequited love and artful manipulation.

    Johnny is a webpage parasite. Life outside the web for him is worthless, disappointing and cruel. One night Johnny, posing as a girl online named Alba J, entices chat room virgin named Marky Mark into an explicit conversation. Johnny describes how he then experienced the thunderbolt, the Romeo & Juliet moment. Spellbound by Mark's good nature and athletic looks Johnny's monologue begins here and builds to the climax six months from this point. Over this time Johnny weaves Mark into a crawling mess of lies all designed to ignite reciprocated love from Mark. The story takes off from there. Cass stretches a simple idea into an engaging and frightening thriller. New characters, born from Johnny's imagination enter the boys' digital world: a serial killer, a female secret service agent and multiple family members of Alba J. The play's climax is electric. Johnny, lovesick and haunted by his own creations, orders Mark to kill him to prove his devotion to the secret service.

    Direction from Yvonne Virsik and a stunning performance from Ash Flanders combine with the riveting story to produce an original Fringe hit. Flanders plays with his audience. Our immediate impression of Johnny as a slimy puppet master disintegrates into a lost and lonely boy deserving of our sympathy.

    Nick Wollan's delicate piano score sets the tone perfectly whilst Alexandra Aldrich's lighting design floods the stage with sickly gangrene shades capturing the diseased, desolate world Johnny inhabits. The set design is occasionally effective but the projections are not used enough through Flanders' speech.

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable thought-provoking piece exploring a shadowed potentially

    destructive world we should explore and question.

ABN: 21 197 300 729 Mail: Unit 3, 6 Cedar Crt Swan Hill VIC 3585 Web: Email:

Three to a Room’s I Love You, Bro


    Current as at January 2009

Melbourne Preview Season 2008. John Bailey, Real Time Arts (August 2008)

… Here's a curious counter-example: Three to a Room's upcoming Edinburgh tour of Adam JA

    Cass' I Love You, Bro. It's a genuinely stunning monologue in itself, earning acclaim for

    playwright Cass and performer Ash Flanders when staged in last year's Melbourne Fringe Festival.

    It traces the true story of a 14-year-old English boy whose obsessive search for human interaction

    through online chatrooms led to his stabbing in a dank alley, a police investigation unveiling a vast

    web of lies and intricate role-play, and a court conviction for inciting his own murder. There is an

    ―I‖ in alienation, apparently.

A thrilling story aside, what makes this tour so interesting is in the way that Three to a Rooma

    company of three young theatremakershave taken this small production, along with Sisters Grimm's equally fringe cult schlock-fest Mommie and the Minister, and pushed them all the way to

    the Edinburgh Fringe. It's not that they're adapting these works. They're doing something oddly

    rare in the independent theatre scene - producing.

Having already toured their own productions to Edinburgh - the lauded An Air Balloon Across

    Antarctica - the company this time round has found a pair of pre-existing pieces which deserve

    further life, and has taken on the job of making the connections between these satellite

    performances and the solid terrain of Scotland. The business of the independent producer - the

    forging ties between free-floating creatives and established institutions - has been one of the more

    exciting areas of development and discussion in recent years, and the work of small companies

    such as Three to a Room add an extra layer of activity to the trend.

Melbourne Fringe 2007. Chris Boyd, Herald Sun (October 2007)

    In the 45 years since A Clockwork Orange was published, countless authors and playwrights have had a crack at making their own language -- their own 'nadsat' -- with varying degrees of success.

    Or, more accurately, varying degrees of failure. Best of the local attempts in the last 20 years was

    a play called Last Chance Gas by Steve Taylor and Kevin Densley, which had a scraggy but playful pidgin English for a post-apocalypse world. The language Anthony Burgess put into the

    mouths of Alex and his droogs in A Clockwork Orange was a brilliant mix of new and old words

    together with a fair smattering of Russian. Adam Cass joins the short shortlist of successful

    attempts with his new play I Love You, Bro. The language spoken by fourteen year-old Johnny comes straight from the chatrooms: stuff we're more used to reading than hearing.

The tale Johnny tells is based on a bizarre true story from Manchester in which a geeky and

    neglected loner spins yarn after yarn to ensnare an older boy he desperately wants as a friend.

    He is straight, he tells us, and so is the "golden boy" he falls in love with... his "first true friend."

    So Johnny pretends to be Jess, an imaginary half-sister from out of town. The lies accumulate

    and then take on lives of their own. The plot - and this is a simplified version of what really

    unfolded in 2003 - had audiences gasping with a mix of horror and disbelief. Gasping, too,

    because of the sheer plausibility of the stories and the perfection of the deception.

Despite the age and cultural differences, Cass relates to Johnny. Johnny, in his way, is the

    perfect playwright... creating characters that he loses control over. Despite the limitations of the

    chatroom slang, there's a real poetry in Cass's script. Ash Flanders doesn't miss a beat reciting it.

    (And it's a huge and complex piece for a single actor on a bare stage.) Flanders delivers it with a

    creepy simplicity. There is further to go with the character, it could be pulled back even further,

    but Flanders is well on the way to nailing it.

Don't miss this.

    ABN: 21 197 300 729 Mail: Unit 3, 6 Cedar Crt Swan Hill VIC 3585 Web: Email:

Three to a Room’s I Love You, Bro


    Current as at January 2009

Melbourne Fringe 2007. Anne-Marie Peard, (October 2007)

I Love You, Bro is an example of why Fringe festivals are so important. This is an outstanding

    production that lets us see what incredible skill lurks in Melbourne’s independent theatre


    It’s a brave decision to write, direct and perform a show that is set in front of a computer screen. If you’ve ever sat staring at your Messenger willing someone will appear, you will recognize yourself

    in Johnny. I Love You, Bro explores deception, obsession and love though the vicarious existence and construction offered by the internet.

Adam J. A. Cass has written an amazing script. By breaking many storytelling conventions and

    structures, he has created an authentic voice and style that surpasses expectations and

    establishes a unique and thoroughly believable world. He combines Johnny’s present story telling,

    inner dialogue, chat conversations and real life interactions seamlessly. Knowing this is a true story,

    and reading the Vanity Fair article it’s based on, makes me admire this work even more. Cass

    chose an original perspective and includes just the right amount of story detail. His addition of

    Johnny’s mother and stepfather as off stage characters bring an extra and more grounded

    dimension to the story. I’d like to see it published, as it’s one of those rare scripts that works on

    the stage, but also begs to be read. The text and structure are so complex that it runs the risk of

    failing as a performance. Fortunately it was placed in very capable hands.

Yvonne Virsik is firmly establishing herself as a must have young director. She finds the

    emotional truth of a work and gently guides her actors towards an honest and balanced version of

    their characters. Johnny is always in front of his computer screen, but Virsik’s staging maintains

    action and interest. It’s like the audience are watching Johnny and his thoughts from within cyber


Jason Lehane’s stark and simple design gently supports and highlights the action. I loved how it

    reminded audiences that this theatre, by looking like a painted back drop, but came to life by

    combining the relatively simple technology of lighting and projection.

Finally, there’s Ash Flanders. If he isn’t nominated for best actor in the Fringe Awards, I’ll be

    surprised. This is a difficult script to perform. The action is minimal, the text is vital and he has to

    morph from chatting to the audience in the present to chatting on the computer in the past, whist

    presenting his own multiple characters and Marky Mark, the target of Johnny’s love and deceit.

    Flanders brings each character vividly to life though Johnny. Johnny himself is played with a

    delicate balance of sympathy, understanding and judgement. Meanwhile Flanders connects

    totally and personally with the audience and never lets our attention wander.

My only concern is that the humour isn’t working as strongly as it should. I assumed it was pitch

    black comedy, but it often felt like straight drama. The audience took a long time to laugh and

    seemed almost uncomfortable when they did. The writing speaks so strongly about the emotional

    core of Johnny, that perhaps the audience need more permission to enjoy the humour. True

    comedy is only a faction of a millimetre away from tragedy; I Love You, Bro needs a small nudge

    back for the comedy to work.

For press enquiries, please contact Charlotte Strantzen

    Email: Phone: 0417 303 404

    ABN: 21 197 300 729 Mail: Unit 3, 6 Cedar Crt Swan Hill VIC 3585 Web: Email:

    Three to a Room’s I Love You, Bro Reviews

    Current as at January 2009

    ABN: 21 197 300 729 Mail: Unit 3, 6 Cedar Crt Swan Hill VIC 3585 Web: Email:

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