There’s one word that can fill even the most adventurous theatre- or comedy-goer with dread: ‘improv’. When done well, it’s mind-blowingly impressive. When done badly, it’s excruciatingly awkward – and boring. ‘Blind Date’, the brainchild of Canadian actor/improviser Rebecca Northan, falls somewhere in between: it’s not funny enough to be good comedy improv, and too slow-paced to be engaging improvised theatre.
Northan plays Mimi, a French clown who has been stood up by her blind date – so she replaces him with a man from the audience. But rather than a few minutes of onstage conversation (or public humiliation), her chosen man is subjected to playing Northan’s new date and co-star for the next 90 minutes.
Tonight’s victim/volunteer is Jamie, a friendly freelance music manager with a positive outlook. He’s a good sport and, crucially, talkative and entertaining. He’s just the type of open character you’d think Northan would relish bouncing her award-winning improv skills off. Instead, her responses are dull. Long, awkward silences (appropriate, for a first date, I suppose) leave little evidence of Northan’s acclaimed off-the-cuff wit.
The opening ‘café’ scene is particularly slow: Mimi asks vague questions – ‘What else should we know about you?’ – leaving her date stumped. And, apart from a nicely-judged birthing scene that provides a few laughs, the show has the same sluggish pace throughout.
To give ‘Blind Date’ the benefit of the doubt, it is improvised, so perhaps on another night, with a different volunteer, the show could be a riot. But we can’t imagine anyone giving Northan more to work with than Jamie. And we don’t want to return for a second date to find out.
By Ben Williams