Review: Eight

RYAN O’SULLIVAN is bowled over by the ‘awesome’ performances in this free evening of theatre.

Eight Homerton

Wednesday 17th – Saturday 20th, 8.30 in the Homerton Small Studio.  Free.

Before seeing 'Eight' I was slightly sceptical: 4 actors attempting to hold the audience's attention for an hour with a series of 8 monologues- I sighed- there was not going to be a punch-up, a sex scene or a beautifully, harmonised duet (my three favourite things to find in theatre and why I love The Lion King so much). Not only, I thought, am I going to have to watch my way through 8 incidences of someone gabbing at me, but I'm going to have to do it twice… do the maths: 4 actors, 8 monologues.

They were going to have to be bloody good to stop me from pulling out my own leg hairs to try and stay awake. Thankfully, for the sake of my manly, manly legs, they were. Through completely convincing, diverse characters the audience is treated to peeping insights into someone's life. From the perverse and disturbing, to the heart-warming and hilarious, each character's situation drew you in and showed you things that nobody should really see.

Every actor managed to create 2 truly believable characters that were undeniably distinct from one another. The audience suffers every cringe with Jude (Rory Stallinbras), a sexually frustrated teen, as he is caught humping a pile of underwear by an aging seductress. We feel suitably awkward prying into the life of ex-soldier Danny (Susie Chrystal) as he forms unsettling friendships with the cadavers he prepares. We lean in to hear the secrets of Millie (Jessie Wyld), an unconventional prostitute, as she recounts some interesting bed-bound moments. Then, finally, we are warmed by Bobby (Katherine Jack), who, with a Christmas-fireplace, perfect, soft Scottish accent, established an enthralling personal tone that ended the show leaving everyone wishing the 8 snippets would turn into 8 complete lives that we could continue peering into forever.

The scene changes were also handled stylishly. Highlighting the fact that this was a piece that relied upon strong characterisation, the actors dressed themselves in view of the audience so we could watch them transform from black clothed, neutral stage-arrangers into actual people, who then opened themselves up for the audience's scrutiny, sympathy and entertainment.

The appeal of watching monologues is that the audience is granted a one-on-one experience with a character. A one-on-one meticulous picking apart of a person, as all attention is welded onto one face. One face that contains one set of minute excruciating twitches when something hurtful is thought of, one set of intricate shifts in expression that can mark the difference between arousal and embarrassment and one set of eye-brows going up and down, up and down, up and- sorry… I like eye-brows.

Every eyeball in the audience is focused on one actor so the pressure is on to… well… act really well. The cast of Eight didn't let this pressure get the better of them. The performances were awesome and I was fascinated by how excited I was at being able to peer into the private lives of 8 people. I left a changed man… I'm now a man that likes to look through key holes (incidentally I write this review from a prison cell).