Blind Date at Harbourfront Centre by Chris Dupuis

By all accounts it shouldn't work. Mimi a Parisian clown (AKA actor/improviser Rebecca Northan) has been stood up for a blind date and so she turns to the audience to find a guy who can fill the second chair at her cafe table. For the next ninety minutes Mimi and her man play out a series of scenes that follow the course of their first evening together. The potential for something like this to go wrong is huge, but it doesn't. Not even for a second.

Northan is a veteran of Calgary's Loose Moose Theatre which has been spreading its unique brand of improvised performance across the country for the last thirty years. In the hands of an even slightly less deft improviser this show could fall flat on its red-nosed face, but Northan is an auteur of such incredible skill that the work not only sustains itself but exceeds expectations.

The content of the piece varies from night to night, so I can't say exactly what you can expect if you go. However the evening I attended Northan selected a guy who was particularly game--an unemployed recent university graduate named Graham, and during the show she managed to convince him to engage in a prolonged make-out session with her, strip to his underwear, and impregnate her onstage. Knowing how trained performers can be shy about doing this type of thing, it was especially refreshing to see someone with no professional experience throw themselves unsuspectingly into an experience like this.

The piece originally premiered as a ten-minute clown bit in 2007 during the Spiegel Show and Harbourfront Centre Director of Performing Arts Tina Rassmussen convinced Northan to develop the work into a full-length piece. Though it's billed as a clown show and Mimi sports a red nose, Northan's performance is not of the clown variety, at least not in the classic sense. Never once are we asked to laugh at her, but instead we're always laughing along with her, as she pulls trick after trick on her guest. If anyone onstage is a clown, it's her man of the evening, as most of our fun comes from watching him trying to adapt to what is in actuality a pretty strange and nerve-wracking situation. And perhaps the fact that we are not watching a performance, as much as a real person having a real experience in front of us, is what makes Blind Date one of the most engaging evenings I've had in the theatre in a long time.

Blind Date runs at Harbourfront Centre through Saturday March 7th, 2009
Tickets available at 416-973-4000 or through

No comments: