It’s SAD Hour at the Locket Bar and Karaoke Club. Barkeep/Karaoke Queen (Yvette Parsons) is singing her heart out as patrons (the audience) trickle in. Anna (Natalie Medlock) sits at the bar checking her phone waiting for her Tinder date to arrive. There’s a comfortable vibe to the place – it could be any bar in any city in New Zealand or the world. Welcome to Silo Theatre’s The Blind Date Project.
In walks Carol (Hayley Sproull, host of TVNZ’s Have You Been Paying Attention), somewhat disheveled and out of breath, with a helmet on her head, carrying a skateboard. She peels off her hi-vis jacket, revealing a terrible, cheap red wraparound dress that refuses to stay wrapped, exposing her bra. Anna seems a bit surprised, but not put off at her date’s attire and the two set out getting to know each other. It’s awkward of course as they fumble through their introductions.
Carol’s a doctor. Well, really a pharmacist. And she’s working in the Countdown pharmacy. Anna works in advertising. Well, really she’s a PA. Their phones keep distracting them, especially Carol’s with someone asking over and over how to cook salmon. Anna’s boss keeps texting. They drink cheap wine, sing some karaoke. They unpack some of their life baggage. Karaoke Queen interjects every now and again as she works, and gets on the karaoke stage to sing ‘Strangers In the Night,’ dedicated to the son she gave up for adoption back in ’86.
Like the best of scripted plays, they’re witty, they’re self-conscious, the layers slowly peel away revealing their strengths and weaknesses. But unlike most plays, The Blind Date project is unscripted and unrehearsed, 100% improv. Medlock and Sproull are making it up as they go along!
While the dialog and action is completely improv, the play itself is planned. The actors know who they are and their backstory. And all those phone calls and texts – they’re from director Sophie Roberts directing!
The Blind Date Project has been running for five years around the world. It was written by Bojana Novakovic and Mark Winter with Thomas Henning and Tanya Goldberg. Natalie Medlock (Shortland Street) is truly lovely as the somewhat uncertain Anna. She has an artless quality that is both quirky and endearing. Yvette Parsons (What We Do in the Shadows) was surely born to play the irascible Karaoke Queen – the leatherclad barmaid with a soft heart.
Anna and Karaoke Queen are cast, but the mystery date is a guest actor who changes with every performance and is a surprise to both Anna and the audience. The programme includes a list of 26 possible dates, including Tom Clarke (Wellington Paranormal), Danielle Cormack (Fresh Eggs), James Maeva (Shortland Street) and Jennifer Ward-Lealand (fresh from the ATC production of Six Degrees of Separation) and many more acclaimed NZ actors. Hayley Sproull was a delight as the bi-curious Carol in a bad relationship.
This ever-changing cast, each of whom create their own dialog and action, results in an ever-changing show. No one knows what will happen, what they will say or do, or how the night will go. As a result – every performance is completely fresh – who knows how the date will turn out?
The set design for the show conceived by Michael McCabe, is clever, transforming the Q Theatre Loft into a cabaret. Most of the audience is seated at small tables facing the glittering bar. The bar itself is functioning and serving drinks, so we were truly immersed in the evening. The only downside is that it was occasionally difficult to hear the actors, and I didn’t want to miss a single word.
The Blind Date Project runs until 21 September at the Q Theatre
Tickets are available here: https://www.qtheatre.co.nz/blind-date-project
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