Meeting a Clown on a Blind Date
Fans of improv will love Blind Date, currently on stage at London’s Grand Theatre. Actually, the creator and star, Rebecca Northan, is quite clear: it’s not improvisation, it’s spontaneous theatre. She arrives with no script, but a plan, and works from there.
Northan stars as Mimi who is waiting for her blind date. Mimi is a charming French woman with a delightful accent. She has three “scenographers” with her, who play supporting roles when needed. The other starring role goes to a male theatre-goer. Prior to the performance, Northan and her cast mates scout the lobby and select a few “maybes” – men from the audience who are willing to take the stage with her.
When the lights go down, Mimi is sitting at a sidewalk café, in her hot red dress, with a red clown nose on. She asks the audience how long one should wait for a blind date to arrive. One person tells her two glasses of wine; another says five minutes. Mimi speculates that would be about the same length of time.
She takes a “time-out” from the play, goes to the side of the stage, and she calls up her leading man. On opening night, it was a Londoner named Doug. She tells him what is about to unfold, and then takes him over to the café where they are now “inside” the play.
Northan leads the way with questions, and Doug’s responses elicit laughter from the audience. I suspect that each show follows the same format. In this case, Doug agrees to go home with her. They take their drinks with them and get stopped by the police, which creates some hilarious dialogue. The living room of an apartment appears, which later converts to a bedroom with a fully functional bed. That’s why I assume that all Mimi’s dates move along in the same way. Much expense and thought went into the fabulous set, so it will have to be used in its entirety for each performance. Maybe first dates are very predictable.
One plot hole develops when the café and Mimi appear to be in France, but on the drive home, they are stopped by London police, and the leading man refers to her being from Quebec. Oh, well, let’s not dwell on the details.
The laughter comes from Northan’s quick-witted comments. Mimi points out the difference between this London and the other one in England. She says that everyone has much nicer teeth here, to gales of laughter. When Doug pushes her hair back, she says she needs bangs to hide the wrinkle in her forehead. “I had to judge a lot of people to get that line,” she says.
There are poignant moments, too, which are not sacrificed for the sake of comedy. Mimi asks if Doug’s parents are still living, as one might do on a first date. When he responds ‘no,’ a discussion on the death of a parent follows. Mimi talks about the privilege of being present when one’s mother dies.
I shouldn’t comment on Doug’s performance, since it will be a different man in the role at every show. But he seemed a little too comfortable on stage with Mimi. I can’t help thinking it might have been funnier to have someone more reticent and less forward.
In any case, it is great fun, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and a chance to see spontaneous theatre in action. With her clown nose, Northan reminds us that it is all in jest.
Blind Date continues at the Grand Theatre, London until March 3. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.
Photo: Rebecca Northan as Mimi.
A Spontaneous Theatre creation by Rebecca Northan
Performed by Rebecca Northan, with Scenographers Tess DeGenstein, Kristian Reimer, David Benjamin Tomlinson, and a different audience member at each show.
Grand Theatre, London
February 13 to March 3, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson