Blank poster

Celebrated “international author of the year,” Claire Rivers is not so much pouring herself into her new novel as pouring another bottle of wine into herself, with bills overdue and her agent leaving unanswered messages saying that the publisher’s absolute final deadline is imminent, but relocating to “the Retreat” where she can focus undisturbed it becomes apparent that the problem is less that Claire herself has run out of things to say than that she has no interest in the work.

The fully automated hosts of the remote farmhouse offering distraction with their pushy intrusions but no mental stimulation, Claire still finds ways to procrastinate even in isolation with her daily run, a cigarette break, more wine, a bath, another cigarette, anything other than sitting down to face the grind of shaping words and ideas until the formerly diligent and devoted housemaid android Rita is inexplicably infected with malware, refusing to allow Claire to leave until the novel is completed.

Blank; Claire Rivers (Rachel Shelley) is greeted by the virtual concierge whom she names Henry (Wayne Brady).

At first an expression of the frustration of writer’s block, the fear of the blank page and the dread of finding the words to fill it and also a tribute to how committed to avoiding writing the average writer can be, Claire (Rachel Shelley) finds her situation becoming a nightmare in director Natalie Kennedy’s Blank, a prisoner of a luxury apartment where her needs are catered to but she is chained to the same antique typewriter at which she once sat as a child taking dictation from her blind mother (Rebecca Claire-Evans), plotting escape rather than the next chapter.

The traumatic memories awoken by her captivity and channelled onto the paper, despite her pristine fifties housewife apparel and expressionless face Rita (Heida Reed) is a hard taskmaster, rejecting Claire’s work when her algorithms regard it is being of poor quality or overly derivative, ironic in that these same accusations could be made of Stephen Herman’s script which sits somewhere between Hardware and Misery and exists in a world where advanced artificial intelligence is ubiquitous but also apparently useless.

Blank; Claire (Rachel Shelley) attempts to manipulate the environment to create the conditions for escape.

Rather than evolving into something menacing or manipulative, a challenge to which Claire must rise artistically and in doing so liberate her own stunted emotions of rage and helplessness, with a daily reset Rita is as much a blank as the sheets in the typewriter, Claire’s attempts to reason and negotiate with the looping software malfunction as pointless and exasperating to witness as an argument with a printer which refuses to cooperate regardless of how many times it has been turned off and on again.

Communication with the outside world cut off, the most immediate threat the dwindling stock in the fridge and Claire increasingly shrill as she faces running out of wine, her character is never allowed to develop in the absence of connection to anything other than her past as the facile dilemma of man against machine is presented in its most basic iteration, repeating rather than evolving or expanding as the premise of Blank which could at best carry a half hour short is prolonged to three times its natural length.

Blank will be available on digital download from Monday 8th January

Blank; watched over by Rita (Heida Reed), Claire (Rachel Shelley) plots escape rather than her novel.



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