The show isn’t quite Cilla Black with masks, not so much a Blind Date as a re-voiced one. There is no promise that true love will be found but a firm guarantee that big laughs will had – thanks to the quick-thinking queen of ventriloquism.
“Before this Armageddon hit I was developing a dating show where I would connive for audience members to fall in love wearing masks. Post Covid, I can’t think of anything more fitting. I think we all need to get in a room together and laugh our heads off, and if the subject can be love, so much the better.
“I had done some dates. It was in the February of last year or maybe the January and the show was going well, but I think the show has changed considerably. It is much better now because of all the time I’ve had and also I feel like we have matured that much more as people. There is a more serious mindset around with perhaps less flippancy maybe and I thought what I should be doing is making fun of TV dating.”
People are brought onto the stage and given masks – and Nina voices their reactions to each other: “I think I had a different intention when I started out with this. I was wanting to make something that had a format that I could sell to TV but now it is all about giving an audience the best time they can possibly ever have. I’m just getting everyone to laugh. The idea is just ‘Let’s have a riot’ and I think that’s a much better agenda to have! I think it’s meeting the needs of people a lot better now because of it!
“I’m putting myself on the spot. It is an exercise in trust. If I start thinking too far ahead then that is where there are dangers because I really need to be responding to what is happening now in the moment rather than putting my own agenda on it. And I think the audience really loves it when you are being honest in that moment.”
As for Nina’s own lockdown/pandemic experience: “I had my partner move in with me at the start of lockdown and we’re living together now and we’re having a lovely time. It has deepened to another level and that helped and also we spent a lot of time just writing and I started to really enjoyed doing Zoom gigs with Monkey. I just wrote a lot.
“At first it was really scary. You could see some acts transferred to Zoom really quickly, things like stand-up acts where they had material that they could just deliver. But all of my work is so entrenched in audience reaction and actually touching people physically and just so collaborative with the audience that I just couldn’t see it transferring, and I was watching other people transition to the new format and I was thinking that I was being left behind. I wondered whether there was something I could do and so I did a lot more stuff with Monkey. It became a question of doing something.”
Inevitably Nina has emerged from it all with a fuller appreciation of what she does and why: “I think artists always get very self-conscious when they’re trying to justify what they do as being important in any way. It is an uncomfortable area. But I definitely feel that the reactions in the theatres have been incredibly warm since starting this tour, the idea of celebrating seeing each other and seeing people go up on stage, the fact that every show is different, that it is a one-off never-to-be-repeated moment and I think that that feels very special. We are just too much social creatures. I think we were always going to get back to it because people love it. But I think live stream is going to continue to play an increasing part.”