Edinburgh University Theatre Company
P.S. 122, New York City
What a surprise, to walk into a New York theatre more than a year after leaving Edinburgh, and see a transplanted Fringe show - even more the case given that the show in question is an EUTC production (their Bedlam Theatre hosted my own play, Mousewings, during August 2007). Perhaps it's no surprise that the one of the strongest segments of this series of monologues was, in this reviewer's opinion, one set firmly in Edinburgh (Holly McLay's impoverished mother, Bobby).
Press materials indicate that writer/director Hickson was concerned at how her work might translate to an American audience, and it's true that there are aspects of Eight which, while sending a portion of the audience into suitable giggles (presumably those in attendance with some background living in Britain), seemed to fly over the heads of other audience members - in particular the opening performance from Ishbel McFarlane, as high-class hooker Millie Faucett-Reid. The nuance of British (and particularly English) class warfare are generally lost on American audiences, who attempt to equate this struggle with our own version of socio-political snobbery, where status tends to increase based on gross earnings, rather than be decreased by gross behavior.
New Yorkers have their own emotional baggage when it comes to terrorism, and Solomon Mousley's performance as Miles, an American broker for Merrill Lynch, is carried more by story than a subdued performance. His profession and company lend even more to his tale, given the time period between when Hickson authored her piece and its current performance; during the August performances no one realized the size of the house of cards that was about to collapse on Wall Street, and this lends further fragility to Miles' already shaky state of mind. His story starts with a trip through London, where he helps a terrorist buy a candy bar moments before the 7/7 bombings.
Hickson constructs plausible realities for almost all of her characters, and her attention to detail and the variations in language speak to her observational skills. Her writing is at its best in her observational comedy and realistic drama, but when she wanders into overly talky, emotional situations (the tale of a woman who cheats on her husband) and the strange flight of fancy of a girl who believes she's been impregnanted by Christ (I think, to be honest this monologue is unclear and feels very self-indulgent and out of place alongside the other glimpses of perfectly plausible lives) the show starts to drag. Eight could just as easily be Six, especially given that during the Fringe only a handful of monologues were performed each time the show went up, and it would have made the production tighter.
That said, the stage at P.S. 122 is the perfect transfer space for a Bedlam production, with the hustle and bustle of the East Village (complete with traffic sirens and noisy passersby) making the entire experience reminiscent of an August afternoon spent at the end of George IV Bridge.
Eight is the winner of the 2008 Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody