How to act on the dating scene
Main attraction ... Bojana Novakovic stars in The Blind Date Project. Photo: Rodger Cummins
An inner-city karaoke club; a woman sits at the bar, waiting for a man she has never met. All she knows about him is what she's gleaned from an online questionnaire. Not an unusual situation, you might think. Happens every night in bars all over town.
But this isn't life. This is theatre. The woman is actor Bojana Novakovic. But unlike most theatre you've seen, there have been no rehearsals. There is no script. Moreover, Novakovic has no idea who she will be performing with on any given night. This is, in every sense, The Blind Date Project, one of the hottest tickets at the Sydney Festival.
It's sheer shitting-myself trauma for about 20 minutes before the show. Then the guy comes on to the stage and that trauma sort of feeds what happens next. It's a thrill.
''At 8 o'clock on the dot, a performer arrives and we proceed to go on this blind date together,'' Novakovic says. ''The audience sees a completely improvised encounter. The only instructions we have are sent to us via text messages to our mobile phones [from director Tanya Goldberg].''
Goldberg decides who the guest actor will be and why he or she is there, Novakovic says, adding that she has not been told who the stable of high-profile stage actors will be.
''All I know is we will both have an objective, but neither has any idea what the other person wants. On one night, maybe I'm really lonely and I just want to get laid. On another, I want to get married and want to find out if this guy is for real. Drama doesn't exist without conflict - and that is what the phone messages are for - to derail interaction, create conflicting needs.''
Not surprisingly, The Blind Date Project has been known to take a surprising turn. Or two. ''Every night is risky and risque,'' Novakovic says. ''I've gotten violent towards people. Other times I've burst into tears, or fallen down at the bar sucking face. Underwear has come off. I've had a guy suck my feet.
''I've had men come on to me and buy drinks while I'm sitting there waiting for my date,'' she says, laughing. ''They think I'm alone and that the show is taking place on the stage, not on the bar. I've had people sit next to us at the bar throughout the whole show. It's not the best view in the house but they just like to be there, for some reason.''
Last seen on a Sydney stage in her own play, The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself, Novakovic says The Blind Date Project is ''the most liberating thing I've ever done''.
''It's sheer shitting-myself trauma for about 20 minutes before the show. Then the guy comes on to the stage and that trauma sort of feeds what happens next. It's a thrill - fear and excitement in its most productive manifestation, and it's like that the whole way through.''
THE BLIND DATE PROJECT by Ride On Theatre plays at the Sydney Festival, January 8-20, The Karaoke Klub, Seymour Centre, bookings 1300 668 812, tickets $35.