Ella Hickson's play Eight comes with an interesting gimmick: We see four monologues by young people, but there's actually eight actors on stage. Before going in, the audience has the opportunity to use a touch-screen voting system (and seriously, Trafalgar Studios, terrible job of making clear how this works; I only heard by accident that I'd missed where the voting machine was and went back before it was too late) and choose the stories they like the sound of. The four most popular get performed. Assuming that the vote is genuine, neither audience nor actors know who's going to be performing each night or in what order, until a face is projected onto the stage to indicate who's up next.
So tonight's performance featured first up Jude, played by Simon Ginty. Who is skinny and pale and blonde and does some of the monologue in his pants so you can probably figure I was pleased with the selection. The lightest of tonight's stories, Jude spends a couple of summer months in France where he's simultaneously attracted and repelled by a much older woman. And I was in the middle of the front row so got a lot of eye contact as he told the story so you know me, I'm easily pleased. Then a darker piece as Danny (Henry Peters) is badly wounded in Iraq and returns with mental problems to more than match his physical ones. Next Miles (Solomon Mousley,) an American stockbroker who survives 7/7 and goes on a two-year bender using that as an excuse, and finally Astrid (Gwendolen von Einsiedel) who in an often fuunny but very cynical story is a girl who's cheating on her boyfriend partly, it seems, so that he doesn't cheat on her first.
This play was a hit at last year's Edinburgh Fringe and all the cast seem to come from Edinburgh University so it's particularly impressive how good they all are. Hickson's writing (she also directs) is definitely strong although she could probably do with some variation in tone - who knows if that was to be found in the unperformed monologues but all of tonight's involved the characters GETTING RATHER ANGRY at some point, which gets a bit wearying once you've seen it a couple of times. The overall theme seems to be selfishness, which doesn't exactly paint the most flattering picture of young people today, and I guess confirms some of my prejudices about them. An interesting evening in any case, and showcasing a lot of promising talent from both writer and actors alike.
Eight by Ella Hickson is booking until the 25th of July at Trafalgar Studio 2.