Monologues have always struck me as exciting things to watch. There is only the performer and the audience. If the audience doesn’t like the performer then it can seem like a very long time sitting in the dark waiting to get back to the bar. If it works then it’s magical. In Eight, there are four actors (playing two characters each) and the audience gets to vote for the six they want to see on the night. The programme notes say “Each night 2 characters will be left behind, reminding us that in each choice we make we are choosing to leave something behind.” Is it magical or is it a long time sitting in the dark? It’s a bit of both.
I think it’s the specifics of the script that didn’t quite click for me. There were lots of English cultural references that I was only vaguely aware of. When I talked to an English friend about it, there were definite differences in what each of us found funny and/or interesting. (To be honest, I’m not sure that the monologues are supposed to be funny – if they are funny, it’s because it’s serving the story and the character rather than aiming to be a stand-up routine.) What I liked about the script were the themes that were being explored. Relationships, power, personal or wish fulfilment, and coping strategies stuck a chord with different segments of the audience the night I went.The set neatly tells you who is left to speak by spotlighting the names then turning off the light when they’ve finished. Initially I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to see all the characters I voted for (omg, fomo) but that changed as the characters unfolded their stories. Paul Waggot plays Jude – a student on a summer holiday in France who becomes obsessed with his (much) older landlady. Waggot does a good job of balancing yearning and anger. He turns up again as the long term boyfriend of Astrid, played by Chelsea Bognuda. She is heartbreakingly defiant as she talks about what she has done, why she did it, and what the consequences might be. Bognuda has a cameo in Danny’s story. Danny, played by Jonathan Kenyon, is a soldier back from war coming to terms with civilian life. Kenyon is fidgety and quite creepy in this role. He also plays Miles, an American affected by the July 2005 bus bombings. His movements as Miles are crisp and with purpose. Finally, Jessica Robinson plays Millie, a working girl, and Bobby, a non-working girl. The characters are far apart in terms of their circumstances. It was Bobby who tugged on the heartstrings because she is determined to make Christmas special for her kids.
I walked out of Eight counfounded that I had particularly enjoyed characters I didn’t vote for, and didn’t particularly enjoy characters I had voted for. Although we choose to leave something behind with each choice, we also gain something with the choices that other people make for us.
- Eight on at Circa to 3 September 2011.