yt2 Plus’ staging of Ella Hickson’s Fringe First winning
Never quite overcome the text and bring out the emotion and pathos of each character.
Eight was written by Hickson in response to the apparent apathy of her own generation, creating nine monologues to reflect the personal effects of this phenomenon through her characters. yt2 Plus follows the original staging of the show where the audience votes on which four of the eight monologues prepared we see each day. The idea is certainly a novel one, but one that doesn’t really add anything to the performance. We are given no information about the monologues themselves beforehand and the selection is entirely randomised. This choice really doesn’t seem to add anything to the themes or ideas the play addresses and comes off instead as a cheap gimmick to encourage people to come back for more performances, only included because the original production did it. Additionally, the act of choosing itself demonstrates a complete lack of creativity, in that a member of the production team simply appears, roughly explains the premise and then gets the audience to pick numbers from a hat. The whole thing feels incredibly forced and rushed and lacks any form of resonance, existing only as a gimmicky and awkward introductory device.
If I harp on about the choice aspect so much it’s only because it really is the only thing that makes the play unique, as without it is simply a set of completely disjointed monologues. The random nature of the play prevents the speeches from linking with each other, or making any sort of broader coherent point, and we are left instead with four completely unrelated segments with no context as to why they are in the same play to begin with.
All of this could be forgiven if the monologues themselves really stood out, but here again we run into problems. Firstly Hickson’s writing style is not particularly naturalistic, and she has a fondness for wordy, flowery language that feels awkward and forced coming from the very naturalistic performances the actors are giving. Every monologue at times feels like it’s veering off into a very pretentious direction and it seems the script is more concerned with overlong discussion on the apathy of our generation than any real attempt to get to the core of characters themselves. There’s a feeling that we’re ticking boxes for ‘What’s relevant for young people these days?’, and instead of interesting and in-depth discussion of one issue in particular, i.e. the normalisation of homosexuality, body image, and monogamy, we instead get blurry snapshots of each topic that doesn't really make a stand either way.
In all fairness the actors do the best they can with the material but despite generally good performances they never quite overcome the text and bring out the emotion and pathos of each character.
Eight thus comes off as a collection of unrelated monologues that for a sixth formers' acting piece would be fine, but for the festival falls slightly flat.