Review: Humour, warmth and beauty in Blink on Stratford stage

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Blink, directed by Steve Farr and presented by the Bear Pit Theatre Company at The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford
Sarah Corless as Sophie and Georgina Monk as Joanna in BlinkSarah Corless as Sophie and Georgina Monk as Joanna in Blink
Sarah Corless as Sophie and Georgina Monk as Joanna in Blink

Phil Porter’s 2012 prize-winning play is described as a 21st century love affair, conducted primarily between two lonely people through video technology. It’s a touching, often funny tale that says a lot about our need to connect with each other.

The people in question are Joanna (Georgina Monk) and Sophie (Sarah Corless), two young women drawn separately to London from their isolated homes and supported by legacies. Sophie arrived with her banker father from the Isle of Man, but he died from pancreatic cancer, leaving her well off but shy and alone. Georgina’s mother died from the same condition but had managed to squirrel away enough money to set her daughter free from the shackles of an ultra-conservative religious commune. Each now finds themselves adrift and invisible in a city of millions.

Their connection comes about through a baby monitor, which Sophie once used to help care for her father in the flat below, now occupied by Georgina. She has always been someone who liked to watch things. Detached somewhat from the ‘normal’ life of everyday social relationships by her upbringing and her autism, she finds solace in this remote form of intimacy. Sophie for her part finds an identity through being observed. Their loneliness is a silent scream beneath the veneer of ordinary lives lived at a slight remove. They watch a TV soap together, eat meals, sleep, and do housework at the same time, even travel around London, all the while never meeting.

When Sophie has a near fatal road accident, Joanna steps in to be her carer, bringing her back to life, a role she relishes. Negotiations follow and they become a couple, living together for a while. Then they gradually fade back into the obscurity from which they came, a sad but believable ending.

Steve Farr’s lively direction brings out the talents of these two young actresses, who transform the open stage into a range of settings through gesture and a handful of props. I particularly liked the way Georgina Monk portrayed the social awkwardness of her character. Sarah Corless found the strength in her character’s vulnerability. Each expressed a deep understanding of their parts.

Blink is shot through with moments of humour, and there is a real warmth in the production that offsets the sadness. It’s a beautiful story, unusual, sensitive, and well observed, and in its quiet understated way quite radical.

* Blink runs until Saturday February 19. Visit Tickets or call 01789 331111 to book.

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