Review: Sharul Channa's one-woman monologue Am I Old? transfers well from stage to Zoom platform

Actress Sharul Channa plays Savitri, a spunky 68-year-old woman in Am I Old? PHOTO: AWARE

REVIEW / THEATRE

SHARUL CHANNA'S AM I OLD? VIRTUAL EDITION

Wednesday (April 22)

Zoom

Live performance. Check. Communal experience. Check.

The only thing different about actress Sharul Channa's one-woman show was that members of the audience were watching her performance from the comfort of their homes instead of sitting together in a dark theatre.

Am I Old? was first performed at the Drama Centre's Black Box in early March. Channa has resurrected this one-woman show on the now-ubiquitous Zoom video platform in collaboration with gender equality advocacy group Aware. This is possibly Singapore theatre's first experimental show on Zoom, and holds promise for other live experiences as the coronavirus changes the way people can create and share communal experiences.

Channa plays Savitri, a spunky 68-year-old woman who has spent more than a decade caring for her late mother and is now dealing with depleting resources in her old age. The show translates well to Zoom, where the intimacy of the closeup view of Savitri creates an atmosphere of a confidential tete a tete for two.

There is also an odd sense of kinship with the other members of the audience - 100 souls on Wednesday evening. Many audience members lurked quietly, but quite a few responded enthusiastically in the chat window during the 45-minute show, offering "LOL"s and "Hahaha"s in response to Channa's zingy one-liners and sympathetic notes when the mood turned serious.

What made the experience engaging was Channa's likeable persona. As Savitri, she is by turns jokey and melancholy. While the camera is unforgiving in capturing her youthfulness, her subtle expressions and physicality - pursing her lips in the way many elderly folks have a habit of doing, a slight hunch to her shoulders - soon convince you that a 68-year-old is speaking.

Channa also incorporates the platform in her opening schtick, adjusting her camera angle and joking about the miracle lighting accessory used by influencers which has made her look younger. She handles with deft nuance the script's nimble segues from funny to forlorn, as Savitri goes from footloose single woman to sole caregiver for her mother, incapacitated after a stroke.

  • BOOK IT

  • What: SHARUL CHANNA'S AM I OLD? VIRTUAL EDITION

    When: Friday (Apr 24), 6.30pm

    Where: Zoom app

    Admission: Pay what you can (Proceeds go to Aware)

    Info: https://str.sg/JMde

The script handles tough issues deftly, and anyone who has had to live with aged grandparents or had to take care of ageing parents will identify immediately with Savitri's anecdotes about a married brother who dodges parental caregiving duties and the delicacies involved in cleaning up a parent's diaper accidents.

The jokes about her miserly brother and her own ageing leaven the seriousness of the topics and prevents the entire enterprise from sliding into sentimental melodrama even with a rather soapy subplot about a lost love.

That the monologue had hit home for many was reflected in the number of people who stayed after the show for Aware's panel discussion about the gendered nature of caregiving and the burdens it places on women.

This is a Zoom session well worth tuning into. There is one more session on Friday (April 24), and Aware is planning more sessions if there is demand.

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