Eight actors are ready to perform Eight monologues about Eight offbeat British characters facing the economic, sexual, and political challenges of modern life. (Let’s hope you remember the title now.) Alas, each night’s audience only gets to hear four of the terrific works by Ella Hickson, a brilliant young writer whose work won numerous awards when it debuted in the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The gimmick of the show is that audience members are given a ballot with cursory information about the characters and representative quotes from their monologues. After a secret ballot, four of the monologues are chosen for performance.
On opening night, the featured monologues were performed by:
- Millie (Rachel Manteuffel), a traditional prostitute with real sympathy for the plight of British husbands dealing with spoiled wives and economic difficulties;
- Jude (Kevin M. Costello), a 19 year old whose obsession with an older woman in the South of France leads to sentimental episode;
- Bobby (Dawn Collet), a working class young mother who reconsiders the meaning of Christmas after a holiday job working for an older and wealthier lady; and,
- Astrid (Ali Walton), a young woman whose engages in adulterous adventures despite living with a lover.
The presentation was well-ordered, progressing from the lightest show with some interesting social commentary to ending with a biting story featuring a bittersweet twist. Further, this order bookended the evening with the two most memorable pieces, although all were excellent.
Ella Hickson’s writing is terrific. She has a gift for painting vivid character portraits. Her use of language has a sharp modern sensibility, both in the choice of language and the rhythms of the monologues. She can easily blend realistic description with incisive social commentary. I was so captivated by the quality of her work that I scarcely took notes (which worked out for the best, since my notebook was damp from perspiration despite the venue’s fans).
All four of the featured actors gave animated and meaningful performances. Rachel Manteuffel perfectly nailed the lightly satiric tone of her piece, Kevin M. Costello was very expressive in describing Jude’s romantic longings, Dawn Collet demonstrated convincing character conflict, and Ali Walton delivered cutting lines with wonderful aplomb. Given the consistent excellence of the company, director Ryan S. Taylor doubtlessly deserves some credit.
The only frustration is that one leaves the theatre eager for more of these mostly dark tales of distinctive characters who collectively help define modern Britain. Based upon reviews, I would particularly like to see the story of Andre, a gay art gallery owner who experiences romantic tragedy, and Miles, who survives a terrorist bombing. If I return to see Eight again (as I very well might), there’s no guarantee of which performances will be chosen. Of course, I’d also enjoy seeing Astrid again. Or maybe Millie as well. Aaarghh! Though as dilemmas go, this is a happy one.
Written by Ella Hickson
Directed by Ryan S. Taylor
Performed by The Washington Rogues
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
Running time: 75 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?