Russell Cheek’s thoroughly engaging and enjoyable production of Who Am I …? left last night’s opening night audiences feeling warm, fuzzy, inspired, and eager to chat with the veteran performer after the show.
Funny and engaging, Russell had the audience on the edge of its seat with the skillfully crafted tale of his unique, nerves-of-steel approach to tackling the Everest of Australian quiz shows, Sale of the Century.
Who Am I..? Border Mail Review 29th August 2018.
For more than 20 years from 1980, Sale of the Century was beamed into the lounge rooms of Australia. Like most television audiences at the time, cash-strapped performer Russell Cheek thought Sale of the Century could be a ticket to some fast money.
After a year training his mind in general knowledge and concentration techniques Cheek earned a call-up, in 1993. How he prepared for it, his experiences behind the buzzer and in front of Glenn Ridge form the basis of his one-man show Who Am I…?
Who Am I…? is part of the HotHouse Theatre season and opened at the Butter Factory Theatre on Tuesday night.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto, this is the real thing,” he tells the audience, most of whom are already on the edge of their seats riding the thrill of the competition and matching their trivia knowledge against his. It is an engaging and funny show that delivers tension so thick you could cut it with that brand new set of stainless steel butter knives with elegantly engraved mahogany handles behind the Home Viewer.
The show was devised by Cheek and performer friend Stephen Abbott, who saw something in the way Cheek described the experience and game play to friends while watching old recordings of the show. Abbott, of The Sandman fame, and Cheek first teamed up in the 1980s comedy music band The Castanet Club and their long working relationship is at play here: Abbott’s deadpan delivery and Cheek’s ability to tell a great, engaging story make this show tick. Cheek covers his life in Newcastle and trips to Melbourne for recording and his appearance on the show.
We learn about the tactics of solicitor Jeff, the self-appointed Trivia King of North Caulfield, and we learn plenty of trivia. With stage manager Jacky Bennett playing Cheek’s support role, much as Jo Bailey did with Ridge, the pair have the audience strapped in and riding every question.
This production has something for all: Will he win or lose drama and tension, clever dialogue from two versions of Russell Cheek and a nostalgic trip back to a time when Sale was the king of quiz shows.