“Love is whatever you feel it to be”
Phil Porter’s Blink is about as close to a lo-fi indie flick as a play can get. Transplanted into the upstairs studio space at the Soho Theatre following a successful run in Edinburgh, it’s a poignantly observed pseudo-love story that balances its romantic intentions with a healthy dose of quirky realism. Jonah and Sophie have much in common, not least that they’re both social misfits, so their journey together, as we see here, is predictably highly unconventional but most winningly presented.
Their lives are marked by coincidences: Jonah’s escaped life from his Pennine religious sect and Sophie left the quiet of the Isle of Man, both have tragically lost a parent to cancer, both now possess more money than they really know what to do with. And as they end up living in the same building in Leytonstone, the scene seems set for romance to blossom.
But the meet-cute that follows isn’t quite what you’d expect. Jonah’s sheltered upbringing and general geekiness has left him ill-equipped for life in East London, Harry McEntire captures a perfect note of goofy, endearing naïveté that is irresistible, and Sophie is suffering from a near-crippling self-doubt, exacerbated by tragedy and loss, performed with a soul-touching matter-of-factness by the beguilingly intriguing upcoming talent that is Rosie Wyatt (whose Bunny on the same space last year was one of my performances of the year).
The relationship that develops is undoubtedly dysfunctional, but touchingly humanly so, as Porter’s writing bubbles with warmth throughout, probing at the difficulties in ‘fitting in’ for those who are just left of what is considered normal, of finding a genuine connection with someone in a world that seems set against you. Joe Murphy’s stylised production introduces a raft of supporting players with great wit – both actors pulling off quick shifts of character excellently – and the striking design by Hannah Clark allows for an ingenious flexibility.
Full of acute observations and a kind sense of humour, Blink neatly navigates the trapdoors of tweeness and weirdness that such a story could well have fallen into, but the sense of bittersweet melancholy that prevails does serve as a reminder that this 75 minute play ultimately doesn’t dig particularly deep. Much is left unexplored though the questions are hinted at, and sometimes asked especially in Jonah’s later behaviours, and where the play ends up feels a little dramatically incomplete. That said, it is a brave ending and in the strengths of the production and the beautifully tender connection that McEntire and Wyatt conjure up, this is an undeniably hot ticket.