Improv format benefits from director’s guidance of a promising cast

Having decked out The Basement as a real bar with table seating, a mirror ball and a tinsel-draped karaoke stage, Silo's end-of-year bash kick-starts the festive season with a Shortland Street star and a roster of theatrical A-listers strutting their stuff in the quintessential improv set-up of a blind date.

Along with the fun and frivolity, the show serves up a generous dollop of the raw emotion that can bubble out of a genuine human encounter. What sets the concept apart from a Theatresports romp is the unseen presence of the director, interrupting and prodding the actors into unfamiliar territory through well-timed texts and cellphone calls.

The blind date in itself offers an ideal dramatic structure with two strangers coming together in an atmosphere fizzing with nervous energy, unseen dangers and the faint hope of finding fulfilment of our deepest yearnings.

The format has been thoughtfully crafted and extensively road-tested by Melbourne's Ride On Theatre. Director Tanya Goldberg expertly guides the show into uncomfortable terrain that provides plenty of dramatic jolts along with the humour of excruciatingly awkward moments.

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Whenever a dead end looms there are built-in restart devices of karaoke, toilet breaks or interactions with a sullen and stroppy bartender nicely played by Bryony Skillington.

Anchoring the show, Natalie Medlock presents an appealing mix of vulnerability and confidence with mercurial shifts from effusive good-time girl to needy neurotic. She also adds substance by confessing that deep down she is longing for the real transcendent love - like Notting Hill.

The show will differ every night and a promising line-up of theatre luminaries ensures there will be plenty of unexpected twists and turns as the season develops.

On preview night, comedian Jamie Bowen's inventive, laconic wit was spiced with outbursts of manic intensity.

Theatre review
What: The Blind Date Project
Where: The Basement, to November 29
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton