Batten chooses to begin the show before we even enter the space. Upon reaching the BATS box office, we are handed a form with questions about our personality and our preferences. The effect is a silly type of seriousness, as we are asked our gender, age, height, as well as whether spelling mistakes ‘anoy’ us, and whether we might jump of a cliff if Batten asked us to. It is reminiscent of an online dating profile, with a twist since we have also been asked whether we are willing to appear in the show.
Batten emerges as a glowing UV hedgehog. She dances in the light, glow sticks bouncing, and approaches the audience members before she transforms into a... bird? Animal identification aside, it's a mating display of the 21st Century, primal and to the tune of loud, garish pop music. It’s hilarious, and the audience is clapping, laughing, and trusting her inherently.
After she exits the stage, we watch clips of individuals who give their first impressions from a photo of Batten. It has obviously been filmed in Melbourne, but it could be Wellington with the wind and architecture. The diversity of opinions, impressions, and judgements verge on ridiculous, as the individuals project their own ideals onto her.
After a costume change into something date-night-appropriate, Batten converses with us about love and dating. She provides facts from history, tales from her own experiences, and trivia about the animal kingdom. We are in fits of laughter as we laugh about how bizarre dating and love truly is.
The fun really starts when Batten attempts her first date. Her date is Jett, a shy and giggly partner, resembling the way many of us feel on a first encounter. He comically comments that he is being literally judged by the entire audience, but also impresses us greatly by performing a moonwalk. When asked if he would like to continue the date, he declines, obviously feeling guilty for breaking Batten’s heart.
After leaving the remains of her broken heart, Batten gets back on the horse and continues to her next date. We are introduced to Owen, a man sporting one of the best moustaches I have ever seen. He is sweet and endearing, charming and genuine (to the point where my companion wonders whether he is a rig - he is not). He admits he has never played Twister before playing one of the best rounds of the game I have ever seen, as both he and Batten become completely twisted and stretched across the mat. Batten guides the dates, keeping things friendly but also slightly awkward, a typical feeling for a first night out.
As the show comes to a close, Batten surprises us once more with another performance of comedic brilliance with a particular costume reincorporating her wildlife facts from the beginning of the show. We end on an intimate and sweet note, as Batten and Owen finish their date with a dance in their underwear.
Batten’s greatest strength is the relationship that she develops with the audience. Her show draws attention to the public nature of dating, where things are constantly watched, over analysed, and consistently awkward. Using audience members as her dates for the evening involves us from the beginning, and we are automatically rooting for Jett and Owen, our representatives. We influence the dates, and in turn are affected by them.
Regardless of how the dates go, Onstage Dating is a complete success. It is an enigmatic and original performance. Onstage Dating allows us to laugh at our own idiocracies and quirks within the dating world. It is clear that we are all in love with Owen, and we hope that he and Batten are destined to share many more happy nights together.
To hear more about Bron Batten and her upcoming shows, head to her website.