REVIEW: I Know What I’m Doing (Auckland Fringe)

Review by Erin O'Flaherty

[Relinquishing Control]

Can we ever really feel like we know what we’re doing? Is what I do with my time worth something? I Know What I’m Doing is an experimental, tender and funny piece that tackles some of life’s biggest questions.

Straight off the back of a season at the Sydney Fringe (2019), NZ artist Melody Rachel brings her unique solo show to Q Loft. Melody gives us various glimpses inside her mind, relaying her anxious thought patterns about having too many things to do and the pressure to finish things she’s started, or to start something at all. For all of us living in this modern, capitalist world where our value is determined by our output, these moments are deeply recognisable and, perhaps because of this, funny. Here we see Melody attempt to control herself, always striving for self-betterment.

Control seems to be a central theme in this piece. For at least half the time, Melody does not speak; instead, handwritten text appears projected on a screen, flashing up bite-sized assertions, like ‘I am a good person’ and ‘I am a brave artist’. This is one way the performer tries to control the audience’s opinions. But these assertions are quickly challenged, either by contradictory text or by Melody’s actions. This speaks to what we all know deep down: that our feeling of control over others and our circumstances is always tenuous.

‘I decide how the story goes’ flashes on the screen, and it strikes me that crafting a story, a show, is just another attempt to be in control, to steer your own narrative – deciding which parts to include and which to omit. A performance is always prepared and planned in some way, and thus it is perhaps a perfect metaphor for how we’d like our life to be – always knowing what’s going to happen next so that we can feel we have some control.

But Melody, it seems, is not in control. She is thrust around the stage at the whim of the lighting and forced to dance to the beat of the music. That is, until she isn’t. Something switches, and Melody gains control over her surroundings – changing the lights with a click of her fingers.

The use of the projected text separates Melody’s ‘projected’ voice (perhaps the way she would like us to think of her) from her real voice and, as the show goes on, her real voice becomes the prominent one. This change seems to come from Melody’s embrace of the present, shown by her engagement with the audience, which allows her to let go of her need for control.

So, can we ever really feel like we know what we’re doing? Melody’s answer seems to be to forget this question, and overcome our fear of the future by being alive in the present.

Melody is a mesmerising and physically dynamic performer. The minimal set (just a chair, a microphone and the projection screen) makes the Loft feel huge, yet she manages to fill the space with her presence. She works symbiotically with the meticulously crafted lighting and sound, always perfectly timed. The show is bold, with Melody clearly unafraid to be still, silent or to leave the audience with an empty stage.

I Know What I’m Doing is an existential meditation on anxiety and happiness in the modern world, reflecting the tension between our need for control and our lack of it. It is told simply but powerfully, leaving plenty of room for individual interpretation, and definitely left me wanting more.  

I Know What I’m Doing plays Q Loft a part of Summer at Q and Auckland Fringe 25 to 28 February, 2020. 

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