Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Eight

Ella Hickson
MAP Rep Company
53 Two, Manchester
05 December 2017 to 09 December 2017

 

One hesitates to use the word’ gimmick’ about such a fine production but it is hard to ignore the novelty element about  Ella Hickson’s Eight. Prior to entering the theatre the audience is invited to decide which four of the Eight monologues will be performed. So that no matter which night you attend you are unlikely to see the same selection. All eight members of the cast sit in the theatre throughout the play; those selected step forward to perform while the others sit as a silent reminder to the audience of the consequences of their choice.

This democratic approach to selecting the monologues to be performed makes it hard to determine if there is a theme to the evening. However, as two of the pieces concern characters who are each, in their own way, coping with trauma and the other two contrast romantic outlooks with harsh reality maybe there is a linking concept. One of the monologues is even set in the Festive period which suits the season.

The monologues are strong, very well performed and tackle complex subjects in a refreshing and satisfying manner. There is a rite-of-passage/ coming of age piece that ends with the character swopping innocence for cynicism rather than experience. Speaking of cynicism a financier’s method of coping with a tragedy is shocking and borders on cruel. The coping method adopted by a former solider is skin-crawlingly depicted while the advice given by a Mary Berry style cook on how to raise children is both practical and oddly romantic.

Rather than set a consistent overall mood for the play director Chris Lawson adopts an individual style that is appropriate to each of the characters. Teenager Jude bounces around the stage like an eager puppy desperate to share his story. The edgy slightly off-centre approach taken by Danny suggests a deep underlying trauma. Bobby, a young mother, treats the stage as if it is her home, sitting cross-legged and chatting away. Financier Miles is very much the Alpha male, aloof and polished like a professional giving a presentation, and clearly doesn’t care whether or not we approve of his actions. 

The approach taken by Lawson ensures a varied and lively production. The final twist, which breaks from the democratic concept, isn’t as successful as one might hope but it is hard to imagine how else the play might end.

Eight is such a good production that one cannot help but wonder if the four pieces that were not selected work as well as the ones we saw. Of course as the show runs at 53 Two until 9th December there is one way to find out. 

Reviewer: David Cunningham