Review: Eight @ 53Two, Manchester

Written by Ella Hickson and directed by Chris Lawson, Eight is a unique theatre experience which lets the audience choose which four out of eight tales will be told.

The play is set in 53Two and in the bar area the audience is given a ballot paper with a short description of each story. As people make their choices about which characters they want to see take to the stage, the anticipation builds.

Upon entering the performance area the cast are already seated leaving the audience to take their places either side of the stage.

The lighting is dim and the theatre, which is nestled under a railway arch, has an intimate vibe.

The stage, which is a simple grey box, is initially deceptive and if audience members were to assume that minimal staging were a sign of what was to come, then they could not be more wrong. 

The characters, who tell their narratives through monologue, are engaging from the start and their performances are more than enough to paint a vivid picture of the intricate and complex stories they have to tell.

The first act is revealed to us as 17-year-old Jude who travels to France and has somewhat of an angsty sexual awakening.  The teenager falls in love with a mysterious older woman, only to discover she is not what he first thought.

CONTROL: The audience gets to pick four narratives to play out

In contrast to Jude, American financier Miles storms onto the stage. In a cocaine induced state, the character relives his experience following the July 2007 bombings in London.

With a flawless American accent and jerky movements which unsettle the audience, he leaps on and off the stage taking those in attendance on a volatile ride through his ordeal.

Bobby is a Scottish single mum, an accent which is pulled off flawlessly from the outset. Her job leads her to make an unlikely alliance which teaches her the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas.

It is the fourth monologue that really sets the audience on edge.  Danny has a horrific accident whilst serving in the army. The intense description of the event transports the spectators through the character’s horror story to his current job which has left him with a strange attachment.

As the audience begins to clap for the stars for the final time, gallery owner Andre flounces onto the stage and if there were to be one part of the performance that is symbolic of the whole production it is this.

Like many of the stories, it sends the audience into hysterical laughter followed by a silence when we realise how sinister their story has become. As Andre relates his seemingly comedic relationship with his late boyfriend, we soon learn how his partner’s suicide has left him haunted by guilt.

The performances, which are flawlessly told and brilliantly acted, use a mixture of comedy and stark realities to captivate the audience.

If there was any disappointment at the end of the play it was only that we did not have pleasure of seeing what stories the other four characters had to tell.

*Eight is playing at 53Two until Saturday, December 9. You can buy tickets HERE.

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