Review: The Blind Date Project

Theatre

11.11.2014

Review: The Blind Date Project

Silo Theatre’s last show for the year – and the last show that Shane Bosher programmed as artistic director – is The Blind Date Project, an improvised performance that sees Anna (Natalie Medlock) paired with a different actor or actress each night. She doesn’t know who her date will be be until they’re tapping her shoulder, she doesn't know what they'll say because there’s no script, and the show’s directed live (via text message and phone calls) by Tanya Goldberg, who was involved in the original incarnation of the play in Melbourne.

Rosabel Tan

There's a lot of talk around authenticity with this play, and how the structure enables it. How did you find it? Did the date feel real to you?

Joseph Harper

Not really.

Eddy Dever

I think it's a really interesting format, though I don't think the performance we saw was the best example of a success.

Rosabel

That's the risk with improv - it can be an unexpected and total delight when it goes well, but when it doesn't, it flails.

Eddy

Yeah. Good improv starts with a character's intention, but the intention of 'finding a real connection' will always be hard work when you’ve only got an hour in a blind-date set-up.

Rosabel

I reckon you'd get a really dynamic night with some people, with different kinds of chemistry, and even though the show could seem like a bit of a gimmick - with less substance than something like White Rabbit Red Rabbit – it's an addictive one. I wanted to stay and watch the next iteration, because the most exciting element of the show for me is the way it unintentionally reveals the guest actor's character - their psyche. Their personality. The instinctive responses you fall back on when the best material you have is yourself. It’s pop-psychoanalysis for the stage.

Joseph

It's a potentially fun format which allows Silo all sorts of exciting casting opportunities and it’s a perfect end-of-year show in that sense. But I struggled to find anything really meaningful there. It's a fun gimmick. Like, for me, the most exciting part of the show was right at the start, waiting to see who Medlock's date was.

Rosabel

That anticipation was felt so intensely - and that felt 'real', or whatever. That nervous excitement of seeing who you’re being set up with.

But Eddy, the idea of intention is interesting, because I was never sure what our actor (Byron Coll) wanted. Natalie's character was enchanting and slippery and interesting for those changes - but she's more prepared, and same for Bryony Skillington's unimpressed barwoman, who provided the best laughs for me on the night. But Coll's character seemed to have checked out a little - if he had an intention, it wasn't actively related to the date.

Joseph

I didn't get so on board with Natalie's character. It felt cartoonish to me.Which created a dissonance given the premise of authenticity and that -

Rosabel

Aw nah, I disagree. That character felt very real to me –

Joseph

Bryony Skillington was great. A real highlight. And the set was pretty incredible.

Rosabel

The set was mind-blowing - as is a lot of Celery Productions’ work – I’m thinking of The Blackbird Ensemble’s forest too. Their eye for detail is so impressive.

Joseph

Eddy, you’ve seen it a few times now - I was wondering what the consistent elements were?

Eddy

Without giving too much away, Natalie's character, Anna, has a few tricks up her sleeve to tease out meaningful information about her date - like the "Which herb would you fuck, marry and shoot - and why?" questions -

Rosabel

I loved those questions. It was a fantastic way to reveal character. The forest scenario especially -

Eddy

Yeah, the journey-through-the-forrest psychoanalysis was a great shortcut -

Joseph

I figured the three songs acted as kind of reset buttons. My assumption was each section between them was potentially choreographed a certain way. Which worked sometimes, but not all the time.

I thought it hurt the show on the night we went a little. The fourth act particularly felt like it was cramming a square peg into a round hole, which is another potential issue with structured improv. Sometime the dresses don't fit on the bodies you've created.

Rosabel

Yeah, that's a good way to put it. There's an element of having to suspend your belief there, particularly on the night we went, since it felt so at odds with the narrative up to that point. I actually expected her to leave. She even said at one stage it was the worst date she’d been on. And that raises all kinds of interesting questions about how the rest of the season will play out, and whether it becomes some incredible, bleak commentary on love.

Eddy

Most of the issues with the ending come back to how the characters gel. The other night I saw an actor with a much stronger intention and a much more believable chemistry with Natalie, which shifted if from being a confused encounter to an compelling interaction which drew us through.

Joseph

Having the cast members sing was a weird choice too, from a narrative point of view.

Eddy

Why?

Joseph

I just thought it would make more sense to have Bryony singing. It's such a short show -

Rosabel

- yeah but it gives the actor another way to reveal their character –

Joseph

- which for me made the ending kind of ring false, because everything was happening in real-time, it felt like a conscious wrap-up, whereas when Bryony sang, it created the illusion of time passing.

Rosabel

Yeah in that respect, having Bryony sing would have made the date feel more coherent.

Eddy

But it's a karaoke bar!

Rosabel

Yeah but that speaks a little to what we were talking about after the show last night. It needs to feel psychologically true, too. 'But this happened in real life' isn't a compelling excuse for events that don't feel real to you as an audience member.

Joseph

Yeah, there's a difference between realism and truth.

Rosabel

I guess I wasn't sure how to feel, walking away from it. It seemed to set itself up to be a comedy, but I felt quite sad walking out of the theatre last night. It wasn’t really a fun date, was it? It was one that was weighed down by this deep and hollow loneliness.

I do want to go again though. I think the show probably works best as a season: it's through that repetition of novelty that it becomes a real commentary on dating and connection and intimacy and how we relate to each other. But seeing one standalone performance - one that was pretty disastrous (for how boring and bleak and mis-matched it was, and how unrealistic (or depressingly realistic) the ending) - felt like a slice of something much larger and compelling.

Joseph

I'm sure it will be immensely successful as a certain kind of end-of-year programming.

Eddy

Having seen it twice, I can definitely say that the night we all went was the lesser. From that position, I'm totally on board with this show. I like it. I recommend it.

Rosabel

It's a shame you had to see it twice to say that though. Not everyone will have that luxury.

Eddy

It's the nature of an improv show. You go for the danger and mystery. Sometimes it doesn't pay off, but other times it does so much more than a scripted show could. I reckon it's worth the gamble.


The Blind Date Project plays at the Basement Theatre
from 4 - 29 November 

Tickets available through Ticketmaster

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Frances Morton for Metro
Paul Simei-Barton for NZ Herald
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