No scripts, no rehearsals, no two shows the same. Bojana Novakovic embarks on 15 blind dates with 15 mystery co-stars
Bojana, for those who haven't heard of it before, can you explain the concept of The Blind Date Project?
BDP is a theatrical experiment about the social experiment of blind dating. It is literally a blind date between two people who have never actually met, and who are desperately in need of connection.
Anna – that’s me – sits alone in a karaoke bar, waiting for someone she was matched up with online. That person is a different performer each night whose identity is unknown until the moment of performance. What follows is an entirely improvised interaction between us, devoid of scripts or rehearsals, as we try to negotiate our needs and desires. Direction is interactive, sent to us live via text messages and phone calls from director Tanya Goldberg. No two shows are ever the same and what happens every night is entirely up in the air.
Obviously actors get nervous before any performance, let alone a performance with no script and a mystery co-star. What's going on in your mind before a show?
Voice one: I need to go to the toilet.
Voice two: You just went.
Voice one: I need to go again.
Voice two: You did go again. Twice.
Voice one: Well I need to go one more time.
Voice two: Well, you’re not going. The show’s about to start.
Voice one: Well then I’ll shit myself on stage.
Voice two: No – let’s go to the toilet again. But this is the last time.
Voice one: Thanks. I’ll do some deep breathing.
How does it feel?
Utterly terrifying and invigorating.
Sounds like it would be nerve-wracking for the audience too.
I’d never thought of that. I think you’re right. It’s scary watching something unplanned, and potentially disastrous – especially if you can see yourself in it. But I think people get off on that – on seeing themselves and being scared of it. Like a good horror film: it can make you laugh, cringe and shudder all at once. And while you cover your face in terror, you still leave a little gap between your fingers so you can keep watching.
Unlike a lot of semi-improvised theatre, Blind Date Project isn't just about getting as many laughs as possible. What's the show about for you really?
To me this show is about celebrating the unattractive and embarrassing aspects of being desperately in need. Sharing that with a crowd of willing participants is as funny as it is tragic. It’s certainly not theatre sports, nor a comedy act, because we are not going for gags. The humour lies in the truth of it – a form where the danger of performing without scripts lends itself to the reality of what is being explored: fear of facing the unknown, revealing far more than we would care to admit and putting ourselves on the line. This takes the night away from being a ‘piece of theatre’ and more towards being an experience.
The show has been done in Melbourne and Brisbane, so Anna has gone on a lot of dates. Have there been any especially memorable ones?
I have extremely fond and tender memories of each and every one of my dates, but if I have to single one out, then let it be one which won't get me into trouble. It was the night my (real-life) boyfriend, Chris, trashed the stage in the first ten minutes of the show. I almost killed him.
Go on, get it off your chest.
At the time, I thought it was a disaster, but if you read the reviews or ask the audience they’ll tell you otherwise. Chris arrived as a charming, talkative jingle writer who won my heart in an instant. But then, out of nowhere, he turned into a savage, sociopathic rage-aholic whose hobbies included having sex in public and pretending he was a rock star. I decided to leave the date, but realised we had 50 minutes of the show remaining. So, I got violent, Chris got cocky – we made each other cry and went home together in tears. Tears which lasted long after the audience had left. As my dad said afterwards “Tonight was good for the theatre; not good for you.”
Will Anna find love eventually? Perhaps in the final show?
I’ll try my best, but I honestly have no idea.
Advice for a blind date?
One should only consider going if one is prepared for complete disaster. One should have no expectations. If one does partake, then one must present well. Shower beforehand, wear perfume and do not put all one’s cards on the table at once. I’ve been on one blind date in my life. It lasted three days. We met again a week later for a second date. After that we never saw each other again.
The Blind Date Project, Seymour Centre, 8-20 Jan 2013.