As our lives move more and more rapidly online, Australian playwright Adam Cass seems to find himself with more material.
Following the themes of his work I Love You Bro, Roam also follows the lives of people for whom the thrill of living on the net becomes more intense than that living in the real world, and that in the end, that is where they'd rather be. It is a tragedy of the 21st century and Cass, along with the assured hand of director Gary Abrahams, illustrates that point with the directness of a sharp-shooter.
In Roam we meet Johnny Lomas and his girlfriend Julia Leonard eating dinner. Julia's father has just died and her newly widowed mother seems to call by the hour, even as Julia avoids answering. His employment also seems to be hanging by a thread, but he remains aloof to Julia (and us) as to what actually transpired. Add sexual disharmony into the mix and it is no wonder Johnny spends so much time in searching through chat rooms and porn sites for some kind of connection.
It is here he meets thirteen year old "Diana" from Estonia who introduces him to an online role-playing game based on the Roman Empire. Soon the pair are fighting armies and gaining points until Julia's suspicions are aroused and soon the only way she can pull him back to reality is in the game.
Performances across the board are superb. Tim Potter's performance is infused with energy and poignancy a strong counterpoint to Ella Caldwell's Julia, a woman who seems happy but has probably just kept her mouth shut too long. Ngaire Dawn Fair nails the spirit of a naïve young girl and her various other characters with aplomb.
The set, designed by Benjamin Shaw, is a complete white box which counterpoints the real world with the virtual, which comes alive when David Nelson's video and CG animation is projected, turning the stage into a hyper real roman playground and, at times, resembling something out of Tron. It is a strong match for Jason Bovaird's simple lighting design (minus a blinding and confusing strobe).
The play is as sharp as a tack without a word wasted. The dialogue is sharp and spare before widening out as Johnny's spirits lift in the virtual world. Cass cleverly avoids the obvious "online games can be dangerous" angle, instead asking instead, "how much damage are we actually causing when we devote too much of our lives to the virtual world?" And "Whom are we REALLY endangering and how?" It is a scorching 90 minutes with a cracking pace that doesn't let you go.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Written by Adam Cass
Directed and dramaturgy by Gary Abrahams
Set Design by Benjamin Shaw
Lighting Design by Jason Bovaird
Costume Design by Chloe Greaves
Cast: Ella Caldwell, Ngaire Dawn Fair, Tim Potter
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Prahran
09 October – 09 November