Review: Eight (Part One)

There was not a weak link to be found in this selection of four poetic, witty, humane, and supremely well-acted monologues. The other four monologues in Ella Hickson’s Eight will be performed on Thursday and Friday, with a selection of the audience’s favourites on Saturday night. Ranging from the riotously comic to the numbingly poignant, each of these monologues was a deeply charming individual piece as well as forming a part of a magical evening at the theatre.

David Shields, whose sense of the rhythm of performance seems to be faultless, started us off as Miles Cooper, a survivor of the 7/7 bombings in London who has used this event to lead another life. A brash American stock-broker, Miles Cooperis a dynamo, constantly active and energetic. David Shields gave us this in great heaping handfuls, but never with a sense of rush or of caricature. Every single line hit the nail on the head, both in terms of rhythm and character, and there was a clarity of communication about his performance that engaged the audience: a vital task on a sparse set in an unforgiving studio space. Then it was the turn of Alice Porter to seduce us with tales of her life as a high-class prostitute, caring almost maternally for ‘her boys’, an array of beleaguered establishment types unsure of their place in a Britain they do not recognise. In amongst the stories of orgasming to Betjeman and other hilarities which I won’t spoil for you, delivered with a panache that did not swamp the primness which is integral to her outlook, was a tenderness and longing that was sensitively expressed in the final moments.

Then came Millie Chapman’s Mona, a young girl in the aftermath of a dreadful betrayal by a boy she trusted with her secrets. In a profoundly convincing portrayal of trauma, Chapman restrained the outpouring of horror until as late as the monologue would allow. Avoiding any sense of monotony or needless self-pity, this was a delicate and moving performance of one of the more subtly poetic monologues. The line about the balls of paper onto which she had whispered her secrets scurrying across the tabletop to hide themselves, and the accompanying image of Chapman’s finger tracing their paths on the floor will stay with me for a while. How glad I was when I realised that the final monologue had a few jokes in it after the almost overwhelming dolour of Mona’s story. Nevertheless, Christopher Adams as André had a tragicomic tightrope to walk between reacting convincingly to the recent discovery of his boyfriend’s body hanging in the store-room, and giving expression to the humour of his reflections on their life and work as jobbing art dealers. This he did with apparently effortless balance. Moving from raucous comedy to grievous panic, sometimes in next to no time at all, there was not a decision out of place.

This set of dances between text and performer was an effusion of life, in all its madness and hysteria and joy. Go and see them.

J. Sheldrake

Rough-Hewn’s production of ‘Eight’ continues at the Burton Taylor Studio until Saturday 9th March, 9.30pm. For more information and to book tickets, please visit their website.

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