The show features a different volunteer each night as they and Batten go through the awkward phases of small talk, flirtation and trying not embarrassing themselves. "I started 'research' for this show whilst on residence in Paris last year by going on dates with strangers. Over the course of the year I went on over 50 dates abroad and in Australia and was struck by the vulnerability and hope that accompanied each encounter," she explains. "Everyone I met was searching for some kind of intimacy, if only for an evening. And I began to realise there were some parallels to a night at the theatre, as an audience member I'm searching for that moment of connection to the art or the performers, just like the people I met 'in real life'. The audience witness the entire course of a relationship over an hour."
While most people would run away and hide at the thought of volunteering for a show, let along going on a first day on stage, Batten has found the opposite to be true. "I was really just overwhelmed by the generosity of the participants and the openness they displayed in engaging with the work. In the end, Onstage Dating is really about celebrating the individual people onstage, realising that we're all weird and wonderful and offering the audience a glimpse into their intimate, interior lives. It also made me realise that there are a lot of great people out there to go on dates with!"
"For the Festival of Live Art the initial conceit was that I would find real live people online (on OK Cupid or Tinder) to go on the dates with, and I had a few nibbles, but inevitably they'd get cold feet! So now we find that getting the audience to fill out questionnaires indicating whether or not they'd be willing to go on a date with me is the best way to recruit, so to speak..."
Batten believes this form of immersive and interactive theatre is only becoming more popular and won't be going away anytime soon. "I absolutely believe that this is where theatre, or at least performance is heading towards. To me, theatre that happens behind a fourth wall feels old fashioned and making the audience part of the work ensures an element of live-ness which is dangerous, unpredictable and exciting. It means that every show is different and unique and I think that's an essential part of why people still go to the theatre- in order to see something that can only happen once for the people sharing that experience in that particular space.”
And how will Batten be preparing for a show where anything could happen? "How I normally prepare for any first date- with a stiff drink!"
If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?
Aubergine. Sounds vaguely French.
Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?
Masterchef. Hands down. I think a lot about my signature dish.
The most irritating habit I have is always being right (read: narcissism).
What's a song that sums up your life?
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen.
During Fringe, I really, really, really want to remember to eat vegetables.
Venue: Fringe Hub - Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: 20 September - 1 October | Tues - Sat 8pm, Sun 7pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $24 Full | $20 Conc | $18 Cheap Tuesday/Preview
Bookings: MelbourneFringe Festival