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BLINK – Soho Theatre, London.

blink“Love is whatever you feel it to be,” declares Jonah, one half of an unlikely pair of paramours in Phil Porter’s quirky anti-romcom Blink, currently playing at the Soho Theatre. Jonah and the object of his affection, Sophie, certainly challenge conventional notions of love in a strange courtship involving consensual stalking, off-kilter gallows humour and a pet fox with mange, among other things, but this contemporary tale effectively serves up sweet romance with a dark twist.

Jonah and Sophie’s union builds on the premise that the social media generation is now as likely to meet their partner online as in real life, but rather than forming a connection in a chat room, they’re introduced when Sophie sends Jonah the screen for a video baby monitor. Both have experienced parental loss and lonely childhoods; now, Sophie fears she is disappearing and Jonah aches to join in. The monitor proves a solution of sorts, allowing him to watch her, and her to be watched, neatly compartmentalising their budding romance.

Porter’s 80-minute piece is beautifully absorbing in this middle section, vacillating between whimsical and disquieting as we watch Jonah watching Sophie, and watch them both watching their favourite soap opera – all of us, in one way or another, watching life rather than living it. The lovers are cosily united and yet disconnected; they do not acknowledge each other outside of this virtual interaction, but there is understandable solace in the break from their routine of isolation.

blinkAmusingly, they follow the lives of these soap characters with as much, if not more passion than they apply to any other relationship, a cleverly observed detail that throws up the question of whether our experience with technology has warped our human connections. The two are neighbours, but unable to relate directly, even when Jonah begins following Sophie around London. The camera is a necessary go-between, and by creating this technological blueprint of her life, Sophie experiences a relationship without the full reality of it – in fact, the reality may not be as palatable.

It would have been interesting to explore this concept further, but the last section of the play plunges into the very clichéd soap opera it lampooned, veering away from the delightful specificity and thematic universality. One weakness of the declarative style is the tendency to overload us with clunky explanation and backstory, and unfortunately the play is bookended with both. It’s more engaging when we’re left to draw conclusions for ourselves, enjoying the rich detail of these characters and subtle developments of their dynamic.

However, Harry McEntire and Rosie Wyatt’s assured, idiosyncratic performances anchor the piece, the former in particular garnering big laughs with his frank, oddball non-sequiturs. Both round out their little world by playing other characters, Wyatt doing well with a brusque doctor and soulful German artist, McEntire scene-stealing as catty Sophie Cattermole, “acting head of personnel”. Joe Murphy’s direction is crisp and innovative, with great support from Hannah Clarke’s retro set.

Blink may not deliver on all its thematic promise, and its studied kookiness isn’t for everyone, but I found it a refreshingly tender rejoinder to this season of boisterous cheer.

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Reviewed 13/11/13/

By Marianka Swain
@mkmswain

11th Dec 2013 – 11th Jan 2014
Soho Theatre, London, W1D.

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