Blink, Wednesday 9th November, The Other Room. Reviewer: Becca Moody
I’ve been living in Cardiff for nearly two months now and am starting to get that itching feeling that I am not fully absorbing the city’s culture. Yes, I’ve been to Cardiff’s Glee Club (which is a great night out, don’t get me wrong, but I’m already a regular punter at the Birmingham venue, which isn’t all that different). In my first few weeks here I went to see Bridget Jones’ Baby at Cardiff centre’s Cineworld. And yes Colin Firth is a treat, but other than the strange purple carpets and the unfamiliar flavours of Tango Ice Blasts, the experience was near identical to that of the cinema I work in back home. I’ve even explored the National Museum Cardiff, yet still feel as though I haven’t seen Welsh art. For someone who loves everything in this realm, I’ve been feeling like a bit of a fraud.
The Other Room theatre at Porter’s in the city centre is a breath of fresh air for me. On my first visit the bar is absolutely packed and it is really nice to see the small theatre room next door completely fill up in time to watch the night’s performance of Phil Porter’s two-man show Blink.
Blink is produced by Swansea-based theatre company Critical Ambition (alongside the show’s writer, Porter) and was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It features Jonah and Sophie (played by Tom Myles and Gwenllian Higginson), who are two lonely people drawn together by a string of coincidences. For the first portion of the play they speak to the audience as though the other is not on stage, which helps to highlight the parallels within their upbringing and life experiences.
Both characters are endearing oddballs, with Jonah’s wide-eyed innocence (which contrasts against his record of somewhat creepily peeking at strangers) and Sophie’s worries that she is becoming invisible to the rest of the world. The audience is made to feel for Sophie, and Higginson plays to this call for sympathy, particularly with regard to the death of the character’s father, with subtlety and sensitivity.
Myles’ performance provides much of the laughter, serving often to undermine the sincerity of Sophie’s monologues. Together, these two cover all bases, bouncing off each other’s seemingly endless energy supplies and proving that a large cast doesn’t entail a better one.
Each scene interlocks with the next with surprising ease, despite the small space and minimal set design. The two actors manipulate the set as the play progresses, assisting our understanding of where we are in the narrative and which characters are currently present. The relatively frequent character and scene changes could easily confuse an audience member who isn’t paying close attention. But while we are made to work a little in order to keep up with the events of the play, we are rewarded by the show’s cheeky sense of humour and sly glances into the darkness that break the fourth wall.
And the play as a whole is as thought provoking as it is endearing. Porter has cleverly used an almost-absurd narrative to comment on common and often uncomfortable topics such as cancer, bereavement, loneliness and depression. The production in general feels professional yet modest and homemade. The storyline itself is beautifully uncomplicated whilst also remaining strange, with enough of a punch that the audience is stunned into silence on multiple occasions.
I went to see Blink not having much inclination as to what I should expect and I am glad that this was the case. This is the kind of production that thrives on an open mind. Like all good rom coms you will laugh and maybe cry a little; but you won’t see any live theatre quite like this.
By Becca Moody
Photography by Aenne Pallasca.