Reviewed by Ellen Becker
“Who Am I… ?” is a question we often ask ourselves when the going gets tough, in those moments when we’re faced with extreme pressure or hardship. Hedging your bets (your future and fame) on sweeping the Sale of the Century jackpot certainly constitutes extreme pressure, and it can go one of two ways – you could be the nation’s underdog hero, or as one out-of-work actor fears, the “National F*ckwit.”
When Russell Cheek, graduate of the famed École Jacques Lecoq in Paris, finds himself struggling to make ends meet, he has the bright idea of competing on Australia’s long running game show. It’s a modern perversion of the struggling artist’s ideal – a “patron” of sorts to support his artistic pursuits.
Determined that this is his ticket to a stable life (not in a share house), he pursues his objective with meticulous training, recording and “playing” the game for over a year, and devouring the news from “oldspapers.” When his moment under the bright studio lights of Channel 9 - where days are marked by a quick costume change – Russell tries to survive each “day” while shaking off the dreaded “National F*ckwit” tag.
This unconventional fireside yarn is tremendously engaging, weaving skilled storytelling with physical theatre, standup comedy and downright hilarious clips from Cheek’s time on Sale. Directed by Stephen Abbott (“The Sandman”), the show is tightly crafted, allowing for moments of banter and improv while straying far from needless meandering.
Cheek is such a warm and vivacious personality, it’s impossible not to become thoroughly invested in his thrilling tale. His facial expressions on Sale alone elicited so many laughs – in particular his terse response to Glenn Ridge’s offer of a sander during the final, tense moments of the game - never has the offer of a prize seemed such an affront!
Certainly not your average evening at the theatre, Who Am I… ? will leave you feeling warm, fuzzy and strangely inspired.
Who Am I… ? is showing at the Old 505 in Newtown until the 20th August. For show times and tickets, click here.
Photo by Old 505 Theatre