Monday 16 October 2023

I Am Seaweed review (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

It always seems like a badge of honour when someone asks you how you are and respond with "I am so busy". Working hard, learning a new craft, up-skilling, upselling, educating yourself. Constantly moving and doing. In I Am Seaweed, Cheryl Ho contemplates what it would feel like to just be and enjoy what is.

Sheryl with an S - played by Cheryl with a C – is a teacher who thinks that by being busy she will find satisfaction in life. By being like seaweed, something that expands under pressure, her super zestful positive attitude and her "Slay Everyday Era" mantra, she's sure she can.

While only a portion of the space at Theatre Woks is utilised, director Tan Hui Er keeps the full stage open and visible. The black, empty areas serve as a reminder of what Sheryl is trying to avoid as well as offering a visual representation of what's happening in her mind with her thoughts projected as images along the wall.

Rachel Lee's expert lighting design puts the spotlight on the different facets of Sheryl's life and as she rushes from one place to another, has Sheryl playing chase with the lights, manifesting the anxiety that she is feeling into the room and out to the audience.

Ho has a huge commanding presence on stage and even within this large space, she fills it with her energy, confidence and skill. Her ability to switch from anger and frustration to joy and happiness to sadness and anxiety as she grapples with holding on to, and relinquishing control, is fascinating to watch as a character study of Sheryl but also as an example of an actor who has a deep comprehension of the material.

Acclaimed storyteller and performance artist Rani Pramesti has mentored Ho in the creation of this show. It's a perfect pairing that displays Pramesti's sensitivity on how to share stories and connect with people and Ho's vibrant yet purposeful performance style.

I Am Seaweed
affectingly resonates with anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed or persistently pressured to keep striving for more, for better. It's an entertaining and good-humoured show that asks us to look inside ourselves and question why we do everything we do and if it's actually making us happy.

I Am Seaweed
was performed at Theatre Works 10 - 14 October 2023.

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