I was incredibly anxious as I rushed to the Brisbane Powerhouse on Tuesday as I was running late and dreaded the idea of having to creep into the Turbine Studio – there's nothing worse than scrambling to find a seat in a dark quiet room, (plus I'm incredibly klutzy and have a habit of stumbling loudly at the worst possible moment). I needn't have worried.
The Turbine Studio had been transformed into Louis's Bar, a rocking karaoke club plastered with local and international posters, a giant karaoke projection screen, flickering lights from candles and lamps, and a healthy buzz from and excited audience. As I was at the bar I gave the young blonde woman sitting there with her crossword a smile, ordered my beer and felt incredibly self-conscious as she suddenly called out to the man next to me, "Are you Patrick?" The Blind Date Project had begun.
The concept for the show comes from Ride On Theatre Company – a young woman, Anna (Bojana Novakovic) is waiting for her blind date to appear. The actress doesn't know who her partner on stage will be, and the entire show is improvised, given direction through a series of phone calls and text messages. Anna's date for the night was Patrick, played by lovable Sydney performer Eden Falk.
The conversation weaved unexpectedly with Anna pushing her partner with 'ice-breaker' games such as "Which herb would you kill, fuck, marry' and a strange meditation walk through that I won't go into, but provided many laughs and provided the opportunity for a few Freudian slips from both performers.
Novakovic's Anna was a flirty, extroverted, single girl who had been desperately searching on RSVP.com for a year (or so she told us) to find someone to have fun with... and maybe something more. Falk's Patrick was awkward but patient (perhaps a little too patient with some of Anna's antics), just out of a relationship, a virgin on-line dater and continuously interrupted with phone calls from his father. One of the highlights of the show was when Anna got on the line with his father, causing many people in the audience to cringe and gasp at her complete lack of boundaries. The cast was complete with Lucy Moir as the 'karaoke bitch', pouring endless shots of, and setting the mood by banging out a few tunes on the karaoke box throughout the night.
The audience created such a fun vibe to the night, and invested themselves in the actions of the two characters. When Anna ran away from the toilet, one gentleman called out for Patrick to "get out while he can." When Patrick left for the bathroom, another woman next to me, horrified said to her friend "Oh no. He's not coming back." He did. And there was a sigh of relief from the audience – I don't think we could have taken it if Anna had just been abandoned on the date. Despite the character's faults, we still wanted them to have the best chance they could.
It's a testament to the two performers (and makes me wonder how the show goes each night) that the 60 minutes of conversation seemed to flow with an energy that the show could have been a fully scripted piece that I'd be glad to pay and see. It's almost a shame that each show can really only be seen once (but that's theatre folks!). While there was a lot of humour and awkwardness (so, so much awkwardness) the genuine sincereness of the characters allowed the audience to remember that the very format of the show, the blind date, is a very real, thrilling, and often painful, undergoing – and what we were experiencing was from a completely voyeuristic position.
The show works because it taps into the very real and sincere longing we all have for connection with another human being, the incredibly difficult journey it is to find that connection, and just how far we'll go to do it.
The ending seemed to come abruptly, and I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to find out more about where the relationship would lead to... but I guess that's how a lot of dates go.
Poor, poor Anna. She brings out the desperate, slightly crazy single in all of us.
Brisbane Powerhouse and Ride On Theatre present
THE BLIND DATE PROJECT
Conceived by Bojana Novakovic, Mark Winter and Thomas Henning
Directed by Tanya Goldberg
Venue: The Turbine Studio, Brisbane Powerhouse | 119 Lamington St, New Farm
Dates/Times: Tue May 22 – Sat May 26 2012
Tickets: $20 – $25
Bookings: brisbanepowerhouse.org | 07 3358 8600