Abounding with Energy — Underemployment: A show about not enough work and way too much TV

4 stars

It’s a feeling most of us can relate to, aimlessly wandering through life with no discernible direction, guided only by a desire to locate the cheapest chocolate and demolish that final season of Breaking Bad.

Keren Schlink explores this concept through song, puppetry, and a whole lot of existential torment in her one-woman-show Underemployment: A show about not enough work and way too much TV. This is about as self-explanatory as the title could be. The satirical story follows unemployed 20-something Keren in her quest to find a job (and enough time to finish that new Netflix show). Furious at her dismissal, Keren wrestles into her impossibly tight ‘interview pants’, and re-enters the job market, overly optimistic, and bitterly resentful.

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD

Schlink describes unemployed life in gripping detail, utilising her subject of expertise: TV. Sharing chapters of her life, Schlink incorporates tropes, quotes, costumes and soundtracks from various TV shows to illustrate the varied stages of unemployment, living at home and hitting rock bottom.

Taking an interesting approach to pop-culture references, Schlink succeeds in not spoiling anything about each show she mentions. The series are not the focus, so don’t fret if you’re not a binge-watcher.

Instead, Schlink simply works the aesthetic, tone, language, and costuming into her own life, developing complex personas from each TV show without revealing a single plot line. If you do recognise the series, you’ll appreciate the great lengths Schlink has gone to to preserve the tone of the original and incorporate it into her own script.

Another fantastic element of the show is the music. Schlink’s compositions are hilarious and biting, with adorable melodies courtesy of her ukulele, and aggressive lyrics courtesy of years of pent up rage.

With subjects ranging from getting fired to dealing with Centrelink, to getting through interviews and being told “It could be worse”, there’s a song to resonate with everyone.

The only gripe one may have with the show is its pacing. Schlink’s unfaltering energy is remarkable, but it can be difficult to catch every line. This is especially so during the GLOW segment, a particularly physically demanding section.

Underemployment is a quirky show about a young woman against modern odds. Though this is a comedy, the heartfelt message of trying one’s best in the face of rejection strikes a chord and leaves a warm sense of hope upon the show’s closing.

Tickets available from the FRINGE WORLD website.