Almost two years to the day since rehearsals began for its premiere in Edinburgh, nabokov's BLINK arrives in New York City. It is a journey which has seen the play travel across the world to vast acclaim. It was met with rave reviews in Edinburgh, was then hosted by Jagriti Theatre in Bangalore before returning for a sell-out run at London's Soho Theatre. At the turn of the year, BLINK went on a UK tour and now, as part of 59E59 Theaters' Brits Off Broadway Festival, it opens to an American audience. As Nick Payne's Incognito wows audiences at The Bush Theatre, this month sees the first time nabokov have had pieces running in tandem on both sides of the pond. With ten thousand Twitter followers, a vibrant presence with festivals, theatres and events around the UK and internationally and with a reputation for the bursting-onto-the-scene of bristling, brave and vastly diverse creatives, nabokov is a young company undoubtedly in an ascendancy.
And I'm completely and utterly chuffed to be involved with them.
I took up the role of Jonah Jenkins in Phil Porter's BLINK in January of this year, alongside Lizzy Watts who plays Sophie Kissack. Working with nabokov has been packed with many 'firsts' for me. My first time working on new writing. My first time working in a two-hander. My first time touring a production. My first time in New York.
Pretty typical of nabokov, I reckon. They're all about 'firsts.' And my experience has been first class. We found out about the New York leg of the tour on the opening night in Sheffield. Needless to say, we were buzzing.
It makes complete sense for BLINK to be here. It's quintessentially British whilst simultaneously being relevant to any big city in the world in 2014. It's a play about technology. About loneliness. About loss. About a connection between two people in a metropolis of idle isolation.
The first time I read BLINK, that's what stood out for me. Jonah is from a town called Barnoldswick, which is roughly fifteen minutes from my own hometown. So it wasn't difficult to imagine his world. Nor was it difficult to imagine how he felt when moved to London. The ease it is to discover a routine and to stick to it religiously is like quick-sand. The same can be said of New York. I've been here less than a week and I'm being as much as an explorer as is possible but it's impossible to avoid some sort of routine, especially with directions and the Subway. That's what stood out for me with regards to BLINK and its characters. We love routine. It's a comfort. But in a place as big as New York or in a place as big as London, a routine can easily slip in to loneliness.
Couple this with our ever increasing reliance on technology and BLINK seems as relevant to New York as bagels and big buildings.
I'm really looking forward to the month ahead. The first week has been a real team effort. Phil Porter (writer), Paul Jellis (producer), Joe Murphy (director), Josh Roche (associate director), Catherine McKinney (Soho Theatre General Manager) and Joe Price (Stage Manager) have all been here alongside Lizzy and I. Our first two shows have been very well received and it's exciting to offer the show to a new audience. It feels like a very fresh production- different to the one we toured for three months at the start of the year.
Alongside that excitement is the bewildering fact that we'll be living in such an amazing city for a month. You've really got to throw yourself in to a place like New York. Dive in to it, get lost as often as possible and speak to the locals as often as you see a yellow cab.
In a round about way- and I'm not really a method actor- there are similarities between Jonah and Sophie's experiences and with ours in New York.
A new place can open the senses. It's astonishing how your eyes and ears can get used to things to such a degree that they don't see or hear anything at all. It takes a new place to stir them in to action.
And I doubt there's any place on Earth with as much to see or hear as there is in New York City.
The novelty of the accent hasn't worn off. Nor the novelty of crossing the road with a white man instead of a green man. The police stations look like nightclubs. They're advertising divorce on the Subway. Times Square is like Piccadilly Circus with ADHD.
And I suppose, I suppose this is how Jonah felt.