Awkward. That’s what a blind date is, right? I wouldn’t actually know myself, I’ve never been on one – just the thought of it makes me nervous. A romantic encounter with a stranger doesn’t sound too bad, it actually sounds rather intriguing if such an incident were put down to chance, but in the world of internet dating and Tinder hookups one can only imagine the worst.
From awkward hellos to some even more awkward goodbyes, the whole premise of a cyber founded hook-up is enough to make my stomach cringe. I mean how many of these people really look like their profile photo for starters? I’m guessing not many – the girl in London using my photos on her Tinder profile certainly doesn’t (true story). Online the personality possibilities are endless so who’s to know who’s really going to show up when the dating game turns real world. And that, my friends, is exactly what Silo Theatre’s latest play The Blind Date Project is all about.
When actress Natalie Medlock, or ‘Kate’ as her character is called, shows up to The Karaoke Klub for her blind date each night she has no idea who’s going to walk through the doors. About an hour before the show she receives two bios – one for her character and one for her mystery man (or woman) – but exactly who that is she doesn’t know. When her mystery man (or woman) comes strolling in it’s just as much a surprise to us as it is to Natalie who’s waiting anxiously at the bar for this stranger. With a list of actors ranging from Michael Hurst and Oliver Driver to Antonia Prebble and Madeline Sami, each evening is destined for a hilariously unpredictable journey and we get to watch the magic unfold. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Anna has two mystery men walk in one evening, just to throw a spanner in the works.
Sure the formula is the same but each night the audience is in for a different kind of fun. The whole thing is improvised which is what makes it feel so authentic, and so delightfully awkward. That’s right – no scripts. This is entirely off-the-cuff so it really is like a ‘blind date’ in that respect, albeit a heightened, more comical version of reality. And what do people do in these kinds of uncomfortable situations? They check their phone, of course, and in this case the actors’ mobiles are buzzing with prompts from the director Tanya Goldberg – a clever way to probe the action without distracting from the interaction at hand.
On Friday night when I went along the door swung open and in walked everybody’s favourite improv funnyman and king of Snort Chris Parker. New to Auckland from the South Island (Duvauchelle to be precise), the small town dating virgin ‘Kurt’ arrived with gerberas in hand for his blind date with the gawky born-again Christian Anna (Natalie) who’s preposition for God soon gave way to her hedonistic drug-fueled past and blatant insecurities. Things went haywire when sweet little Kurt went psycho on his cheese-making mother, sending Anna into a rage before declaring the date over and storming out. But that wasn’t before a little bit of porn talk, some interesting games and an awkward pash. There was some karaoke thrown in there too of course, much to the displeasure of the hilariously unimpressed bartender played by Bryony Skillington. Side note – that girl can sing!
The set was perfection – the fictitious Karaoke Klub was as genuine as any real dive bar with the audience sitting at tables like friendly patrons having a drink. And drink they could; the set was actually a fully functioning bar and operated as that before the action began, a welcome reprieve for the actors too who seemed to loosen up once the alcohol started flowing.
A must see, The Blind Date Project takes the ultimate staged set-up and makes it anything but. Nobody knows where this love story will go, but one thing’s for sure – you’re in for a laugh. The real thing may be hit or miss, but this blind date rendition is a definite hit. If only we could go every night.
Note: The Blind Date Project is playing at the Basement Theatre until the 29th of November. You can buy tickets here.