Pros: This duo’s improvisation is something of a marvel to behold, and you’ll likely go away feeling both amused and impressed.
Cons: There’s not a lot of musical variation. Perhaps this is simply down to the show’s current, stripped-back make up: a singer, a pianist, a box, and very little else.
Blinkface is a fully improvised, mostly musical, and incredibly risky show: two women, one piano, and a box onstage, filled with stories from the audience, which they turn into (sometimes) catchy tunes. Live. On paper, it sounds like a nightmare to pull off. In the event, the two performers, Olivia Mace and Yshani Perinpanayagam, do so with aplomb.
I’ve always fancied myself as a pretty decent improviser, despite the fact that I’ve literally never tried it, but performances like this one are a stark reminder of the skill required if you want to do it well. The speed with which Mace is able to create whole ballads based around a story she’s read only seconds before (stories like “I fainted on stage during a live performance and the theatre had to be evacuated”) is genuinely remarkable, and is aided significantly by the accomplished and quick-thinking musicianship of Perinpanayagam. They’re a formidable duo. Having said that, their impressive musical chemistry isn’t matched during the pauses when they’re not playing. More could be made of the quiet moments in between songs while the two read the stories from the ‘blink box’ together for the first time. Some of the stories were pretty grizzly – I’d know, a couple were mine – and I’d have loved to see a bit more in their reactions before they launched into each song.
Particularly skilful is the pair’s ability to take some frankly mediocre audience stories and turn them into extremely funny songs on the spot. I had worried that the anonymous audience participation element of Blinkface would be its undoing, because surely it would be reliant on material from people in the crowd like me, who are generally alright but basically a bit boring. I was delighted to be proved wrong! Mace and Perinpanayagam got big laughs on pretty much every number (despite, perhaps inevitably, more than one story involving faecal matter being deposited into the ‘blink box’), and deservedly so.
While I didn’t come away humming any of the new tunes I’d heard, the songs aren’t bad. If there was a way to make them catchy then Blinkface would be on to even more of a winner (I do not know if this is feasible because I can’t play the piano and I don’t really sing) – the introduction of an additional instrument, for example, might really add to it.
I left Blinkface with a smile on mine, having witnessed a small masterclass in musical improvised storytelling in a show deserving of a bigger budget and a much wider audience.
Written, directed and produced by: Olivia Mace and Yshani Perinpanayagam
Booking until: This show has completed its run – look out for more dates in the future.