From the minute Jonah (Rob Hall) begins to tell the “true story” of how he and Sophie (Tara Lacey) met and fell in love, I was hooked by the premise and wanted to know more about the characters. The intricate narrative cleverly sets the scene, and weaves the actors' storylines together through a series of coincidences and twists of fate.
The socially awkward Jonah, who grows up sheltered by a religious commune, and the invisible and vulnerable Sophie find each other in Leytonstone – the heart of East London. Their relationship begins in an almost surreal way, through the eyes of a baby monitor, and moves in and out of the struggle co-dependency brings.
Hall captures brilliantly the wide-eyed innocence of a lonely man desperate to discover what the world beyond his experience has to offer. His methodical and literal way of thinking and speaking offers moments of deep insight and pathos, for example when he describes grief as “the moment you start to think the battle's been won, but actually when you are most exposed”. Lacey, as his love interest, creates a believable and equally wide-eyed counterpart, whose life has been just as closeted through her relationship with her father. Her desperation to be "seen" is palpable throughout.
There were times when I thought the dialogue over-done, though I still found myself drawn into their world. I had moments too of feeling a tad voyeuristic, but I was fascinated as to how the relationship would unfold. In truth however, there was only one way I thought their story could go – and it did. And so, though I enjoyed the beginning very much, I wasn't so engaged by the end.
Despite a few apparent nerves (mainly showing in the delivery of lines), the piece afforded great use of the space and employed a simple but very effective set and lighting. I especially enjoyed seeing certain poignant moments of the story being brought to life whilst projected onto a big screen, as if happening in real time.
Blink in essence is a story about loneliness, loss, and the grief that can follow. It's to the credit of the actors and of writer Phil Porter that I left the theatre thinking about exactly that. Overall, an unusual and effective piece of theatre.