I Love You, Bro
Three To A Room @ The Spiegeltent
8:30pm, Mon 16 Mar 2009
On a moody Monday night in The Garden, the only queue to be found was the one leading to the Spiegeltent for this performance. Running a little late, I successfully managed to queue-jump a little when I spotted the lovely Kim (from Holden Street); we started chatting, and she mentioned that her interest in this show stemmed from the fact that it was the same company that was behind An Air Balloon Across Antarctica… which I really hadn’t liked at all.
All of a sudden, my previously curious anticipation deflated to mopish dread.
I Love You, Bro is a bit of a mind-bender, really. Ash Flanders plays Johnny, a youngster deeply immersed in his MSN chat world, whilst living in a squalid English flat with disconnected family. He befriends Mark, a local football hero, and the interactions between the two are played out entirely from Johnny’s perspective.
Johnny’s online persona, however, is a web of confused lies – and despite his witless protests (“I’m not a fag, me”) it’s clear that there’s some serious questioning of his sexuality going on. But lies beget lies, and soon his innocent, then sexual, infatuation with Mark morphs into disgust; disappointment that the object of his desire could be so gullible, leading to more turmoil as Johnny is unable to reconcile his attraction to one who is, suddenly, so reprehensible. As the story comes to a head – Mark eventually stabs Johnny, leaving him to die – the initially throwaway piece of dialogue “kill off the lies to clear a way for the truth” really resonates.
As a former web forum addict, I could totally identify with the deceitful web that Johnny spun around himself; I’ve seen it all before, and the writing felt absolutely spot-on. And it’s most certainly a powerful performance by Ash Flanders, and his accent and delivery is perfect – but there were times when I Love You, Bro felt a little bit long, like it was dragging on too much, dwelling on scenes unnecessarily. And yet, in the cold light of day, I can’t recall an ounce of fat in the script, not a snippet that could be pared off without reducing Johnny’s naivety and confusion, without impacting the invisible Mark’s rising emotions. That this play is based on real-life events, that Johnny essentially incited his own murder, is pretty terrifying.
In short, Kim was right. This was a cracking show, and no mistake.