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August 15, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Eight

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I found the premise of Eight highly appealing

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Audiences can vote for six of the eight possible characters that they would like to see during the play and this, according to playwright Ella Hickson, serves in “reminding us that in each choice we make we are choosing to leave something behind”. I suppose I’m more susceptible to consumerism than I thought. The feeling of power was heady as I voted but my disappointment was equally acute on opening night when I realised that Jude and Danny, the characters I had most wanted to see, would not be making an appearance. This information was conveyed poignantly by the lights which illuminated the two characters’ names blinking out. Lines from the play were both scrawled on the wooden panels towards the back of the stage and on the walls of Circa Two itself; a lovely touch which, what with Facebook and Twitter, is somewhat reminiscent of our being surrounded by the proclamations and personal thoughts of others.

The country’s “hottest young actors”, kitted out in a variety of NZ fashion designs, were superb. Thank God. The prospect of sitting through nearly an hour and a half of monologues delivered by anything less than exceptionally talented actors is chilling to say the least. Jonathan Kenyon gives a strong and steely performance as Miles, an American golden boy and businessman whose chance encounter in London propels him into an existence of excess without empathy. Jessica Robinson is delicious as both Bobby, a single mum trying to give her kids a “magic” Christmas, and “marital supplement” Millie. Robinson not only delivers dialogue with thrilling speed and poise but also displays an awareness of the characters’ surroundings which swept me up in their stories very quickly. Chelsea Bognuda’s Astrid, creeping home to her slumbering boyfriend after spending the night with another man, questions whether her infidelity lends her any power in a relationship in which she feels invisible. It is a compelling piece and I feel that, of all the monologues I saw, it relates most strongly to the play’s interest in the inevitable feeling of loss which accompanies our choices in life. Mona, Bognuda’s second character of the night, was a bit of a mystery to me. A highly stylistic piece, bookended by some creepy singing, it explores the relationship between darkness and light, secrets and privacy. Bognuda fully commits to the stilted text and saves the piece from sounding like a prose adaptation of My Chemical Romance’s most clichéd lyrics. Andre, played by Paul Waggott, is a gallery owner whose boyfriend has recently left him in a decidedly Avant-garde fashion. Waggott’s comic timing and glittering charm result in a magnetic performance. It did dawn on me, however, as Andre ruminated over the artificial glamour of the art world, that the script seems to take a turn towards dour pontificating in each and every monologue. Perhaps this is an attempt to reflect ‘Generation Me’s’ demand to have it all, even on an emotional scale, but it often appears contrived and the effect is disingenuous. Perhaps both the characters and playwright of Eight might benefit from a ‘less is more’ attitude.

Eight
By Ella Hickson
06 August – 03 September at Circa Two

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