“The first thing I want to tell you is this… Love is whatever you feel it to be.”
The EUTC’s production of ‘Blink’ by Phil Porter is a darkly funny and uniquely perceptive exploration of love and loneliness in the digital age. The play follows Joanna (Hannah Churchill) and Sophie (Lizzie Lewis), two young women living in the same London apartment block, each experiencing bereavement and isolation.
When Sophie anonymously sends Joanna a wireless baby monitor, allowing Joanna to look into her apartment via a camera, the two embark on an unlikely and unconventional relationship. Sophie finds comfort in being watched, and Joanna finds comfort in watching. As their contact gradually increases, the two are forced to determine how sustainable this kind of a relationship can possibly be.
Under Myles Westman’s masterful direction, the disconnected nature of Joanna and Sophie’s relationship is heavily emphasised. The two characters are kept at a physical distance for much of the play, mostly addressing the audience rather than each other. In an era where you can talk to ten friends at once without having to leave your room, the idea of carrying out a relationship at a distance feels eerily familiar. When the two characters are brought together, there is a tangible tension.
Laura Hounsell’s set also successfully emphasises this theme of distance and fragmentation. A roll of fake grass ends abruptly in the middle of the stage, giving the impression of a space cut in half. Indeed, the play both begins and ends with Joanna on one side and Sophie on the other. The prominently placed television screen is a constant reminder of the role of technology in Joanna and Sophie’s relationship, and perhaps encourages us to think of the role of technology in our own relationships as well.
It is, however, the incredible prowess of Churchill and Lewis that truly elevates this production. Seemingly effortlessly, they disappear into their respective characters; Churchill as Joanna, a naïve woman who has just left a Christian commune, and Lewis as Sophie, a witty yet deeply depressed woman who is terrified of her perceived social invisibility. Their regular character transformations only serve to emphasise their ability to totally embody these two lead roles, as well as further highlighting their technical skill. They each provide a tender, humorous, and ultimately highly moving portrayal of what it means to be lonely in a hyper-connected world. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable and at times electric; it is near impossible for the audience to not feel invested in their story.
Ultimately, this production is a triumph. ‘Blink’ is a unique and painfully relevant story, and the way that it has been told here is a credit to Bedlam Theatre.
Image: Erin Northridge