Writer: Ella Hickson
Director: Mark Stevenson
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
What defines a generation characterised by its apathy? That’s the question Ella Hickson attempts to answer in Eight, her multi award-winning 2008 play, presented by NewUpNorth-Scotland with students from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
It is in turn, a cynical, depressing, hysterical and touching portrayal of the realities of life as a twenty-something in contemporary Britain. Presented as a series of eight monologues over two acts, this play finds Hickson attempting to: “tackle the negative reputation my generation have earned.”
When originally presented at the Edinburgh Fringe the audience voted for the four stories they most wanted to see based upon short character profiles. If that device had been employed here it would have denied us the privilege of seeing the fine acting of some of the young cast.
The most affecting of the eight monologues is delivered by Scarlett Mack as Bobby: a wholly believable portrayal of a struggling, single mother’s attempts to create the illusion of a perfect Christmas for her sink estate kids, and the most resonant by Maria Teresa Creasey as the quirky Astrid, whose perfectly pitched speech on infidelity: “to stay or go, to tell or no,” strikes a chord with the captivated audience.
Of the others: Alasdair James McLaughlin convincingly delivers as Miles, a high living and earning American stockbroker and survivor of the 7/7 bombings whose current, hedonistic lifestyle has given him cause to stop and re-assess. McLaughlin successfully portrays the character’s turmoil and journey to an escape. Umar Pasha, as art dealer André plays his rôle with a casual insouciance that belies the tragedy of the fact he is waiting for the paramedics to arrive after his boyfriend has just hanged himself with a Hermés scarf and Chris Donald overcomes poor material as ex-squaddie Danny who makes friends in morgues, with a subtly nuanced performance.
Sarah Higgins as Millie provides the evenings light relief as a prostitute who reads Betjeman to her very particular clientele, British men who still yearn for: “cricket on warm afternoons, cardigans and Pimm’s.” She is probably the least contemplative of all the characters and as a result the most self-aware and Riley Lynch makes the best of a clichéd script to deliver a slightly nervous turn as infatuated teenager Jude.
Alexandra Birchfield has the misfortune to deliver the most pretentious of the monologues as Mona, a troubled young woman running away from her bohemian mother and a life with no boundaries. The heavy-handed symbolism and uneven prose make this a hard watch; Birchfield however, makes the best of the material she has to work with.
Hickson clearly has an ear for dialogue and her finger on the pulse of young Britain, but as it is, this is a piece of varied quality – what it shows though, is fantastic potential for the future of British drama and for these young actors the future looks bright indeed.
Runs until 16th June