Blind Date Project: 'I do whatever I want'
SYDNEY FESTIVAL: Acclaimed actor Bojana Novakovich will endure an improvised date with a different guest performer each night in The Blind Date Project. To make matters worse, she has no idea who’s going to rock up, writes Garrett Bithell.
For actor Bojana Novakovich, The Blind Date Project must be a lot like theatrical sadomasochism. The premise of the show, which is one of the highlights of Sydney Festival 2013, is simple: a woman (Novakovich) sits alone in a karaoke bar waiting for her date to arrive, and that date is a different performer each night. The catch? Novakovich has no idea who she is about to meet.
“Theatrical sadomasochism!” she laughs. “You’re totally right – and actually, I have hit people in the show before, just FYI. Any actor who tries to disobey me, I have hit. Also, I just did the show in LA, and one guy took my shoes off and starting sucking my feet... But we’re telling audiences not to expect that because most men aren’t that crazy.”
Conceived by Novakovic and Mark Winter, and directed live by Tanya Goldberg, the boldly devised encounters are devoid of scripts or rehearsals and no two shows are ever the same. Guided only by text messages from Goldberg – ‘touch his hand’, ‘try to kiss him’, ‘take off your underpants and put them in her bag’ – and interspersed with random songs, this brave experiment has the potential to be humiliating, tender or just plain hot.
“I do whatever I want,” Novakovich says. “We’ve definitely experimented with making her very different every time, but there’s a certain kind of quality that works for her to welcome the performer into the show. I mean, the guest performer is terrified! I’m terrified too, but I know the structure. I’ve never seen so many handsome leading men so terrified!”
A spanner was thrown into the works during the Melbourne premiere season when the guest performer one night was Novakovich’s actual boyfriend, Chris Ryan. “That was the worst show, because obviously I didn’t know he was coming and we had had a fight,” she says. “But when I saw him I was so happy – there was this beautiful smiling man. And then he turned into a sociopath, and I got violent with him! The audience of course had no idea who he was to me.
“I was trying to reach him – like ‘Chris, where are you?’ But he was in character and just loving it – so I just got angry and started going “why am I here?” and he’s like “I don’t know, but you seem to be staying so I must be doing something good...” And I packed up my bags to go and I realised we had 50 minutes of the show to go, because it only took him ten minutes to become a raging alcoholic sociopath. All through I’m thinking, ‘how can you do this to my show?’!”
The Blind Date Project, Karaoke Klub at the Seymour Centre (corner City Road and Cleveland Street, Chippendale), January 8 – 20. Bookings at www.sydneyfestival.org.au/date.