On leaving BATS, when a formidably talented young theatre maker asks me what I thought, I hear myself say, “Very Millenial.” She laughs. Which could mean anything.
The question is, is Melody Rachel – creator/performer of I Know What I’m Doing – having a laugh at her generation’s self-absorption or offering us an insight into the anxiety issues that tend to confound a significant segment of her cohort?
She is in a tight spot and wearing a blindfold when we enter BATS’ Dome space. Immediately we are prompted to realise she is having a different experience of the environment we share. Projected handwritten text confirms there is stuff going on in her head that is not otherwise apparent to the casual observer.
Does her inner self protest too much that she is a good person? Is her status as an artist worthy of worship? Is her self-awareness – “It’s all about me” – a self-effacing piss-take or a declaration of how she truly feels deep down; a challenge to us all to admit we feel that way too? Could this evolve into a heart-felt clown show that provokes the extremes of hilarity and pathos?
Her dancing is rudimentary. Cool in a crowd, not so much as performance. Yet it exudes wannabe toughness. Another manifestation of what’s hidden inside? Again, which of us can say it’s not similar for us? It’s a cracking soundtrack in every sense.
The things she reads may offer useful insights. They make her think, she applies them to her own experiences and has ‘Wow!’ moments. Or maybe she overthinks things. Her speedy on-mic rave about things to do generates more anxiety. Even when she leaves the space the inner voice keeps nagging at her. Is the “one more” another performance piece she’s telling herself to do or does she have a packet of Tim Tams back there?
Throughout the short show – about 35 minutes – her conversations with herself cannot help but prompt our own. If “Great mental health is when you respond to what’s actually happening,” does that include what’s actually happening inside her head – and inside our heads? Wow.
Melody Rachel varies the pace and the picture splendidly to keep us interested and on our mental toes. Obviously self-esteem and fear of rejection are ever-present issues. Forgiveness, however, is a concept that demands we step outside ourselves to empathise with someone even when we know they’ve done wrong. Not sympathise; empathise.
Has Rachel, in her performance persona, really not got how liberating forgiveness can be (how inevitably self-defeating cycles of revenge become), or is she challenging us not to see things her way just because she is the artist with the status and the power?
Wow. Is there a paradox in there? Or am I overthinking it?
I confess to feeling, when I Know What I’m Doing finished, that it was a bit thin, shallow even, beneath the fun performance elements, and lacking much resonance beyond its self-involvement. But now I’ve thought about it … Wow. Melody Rachel does know what she’s doing. I think.
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