Colette Cullen’s play, ‘Blind Date’, appears to be about the dating scene for Dublin singletons, gay and straight, but it morphs into something else entirely, says Brian Finnegan.
Meet Sophie, Karl, Mark and Alan. Sophie’s an ordinary girl, working in sales, on the dating scene and looking for Mr. Right. Her best friend, Helen has set her up on a blind date with likely lad Karl, a sociable guy who isn’t adverse to someone new in his life.
Mark is nursing a broken heart, having been left in the lurch by his boyfriend of 12 years, who was less than faithful. His friend, Robbie has set him up for a blind date with one of his Facebook friends, Alan. Alan’s a nice, solvent guy with a history of one-night stands and fleeting relationships that’s recently been fueled by Grindr. He’s beginning to entertain the idea of something more permanent.
On the surface, Colette Cullen’s four-hander, which has just been shortlisted for RTÉ Radio One’s PJ O’Connor Awards, is about the vagaries of modern dating. Told in alternating monologues that detail the characters’ backgrounds and the progression of both the blind dates, the language is true to modern Dubliners on the dating block; there’s plenty of self-bolstering and declarations of independence. Sophie, Karl, Mark and Alan are all simply trying blind dating out for the experience, and if something good comes from it, then no one’s complaining.
Or are they?
Two thirds into Sophie and Karl’s date, things begin to take a distinctly murky turn, and Cullen’s play morphs from a modern comedy of dating manners into something else entirely. I don’t want to give the game away, but the experience of both dates is progressively uncomfortable for entirely different reasons that nevertheless culminate in the same outcome, and by the time Sophie and Karl, and Mark and Alan have gone their separate ways, there’s horror involved.
It’s a testament to Cullen’s writing, and four great performances from Laura Canavan-Hayes, Michael O’Kelly, Conor Marren and Alan McNally as Sophie, Karl, Mark and Alan respectively, that Blind Date never descends into melodrama, and hits a nail on the head that is rarely tackled. Canavan-Hayes has a line that will have you cringing in your seat, and she delivers it with such realism, you forget you’re watching a play. There are some clunky staging moments, and one or two of the monologues are a tad too long, but these are small complaints in the context of a play that dares to steer clear of redemption in an effort to tell the complex truth of many people’s experiences.
The bar has been steadily rising over the past 12 years of the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. This play brings it a notch higher.
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