Ella Hickson’s Eight may be heralding the new seven deadly sins for contemporary British youth, if anyone actually cared about sinning anymore. Exhibit A: Theatre presents eight fifteen-minute monologues depicting crumbling manifestations of Cool Brittania in the noughties, personalities consumed by obsession, poverty, adultery, suicide, terrorism, necrophilia and madness. The audience is sunk into the personal catastrophes of contemporary British life by a strong ensemble of unique and carefully cast performers in this enthralling satire that gives a sense that the world is crumbling around us and nobody cares an iota.
Director Adam Spellicy’s cast creates a patchwork of crises that slowly reveals the normality of depravity in contemporary life. There may be a hint of a cringe on your face when you realise every monologue is done in various British accents, but the cast is pretty strong here, even with a hectic working class Scottish doozy thrown in there. Exquisite performances from Belinda Misevski and Benjamin Rigby top the show off with truthful, committed and engaging soliloquies. Rich and provocative depictions of a prostitute who yearns for the glory days of class distinctions, a complicated ex-soldier with a penchant for dead bodies (also featuring some mummy issues), and a gorgeous teenager who beds Mrs Robinson are thoroughly enjoyable. Tegan Crowley, as the single mum controlled by her poverty, is spellbinding in her vulnerable determination.
It’s always slightly frustrating though when you’re listening to the well-trained projections of eight genuinely engaging performers but the concrete box around you amplifies and distorts them until your ears ring. Although a big old empty art gallery seems perfect for Hickson’s rich and poetic musings, when there’s something IMPORTANT AND LOUD to say it can get pretty uncomfortable right there in your cochlea.
Eight’s sparse set allows for a vivid focus on the skillfully composed confessions of the characters. A union jack rise – the production’s only set piece – sits solitary and impotent in a lacklustre grey-scale palette, stomped on, deflowered and virtually invisible to its subjects. Shanon Whitelock’s original compositions cue the next confessor with ominous military tones, as the bells toll for each actor, one chapter of helplessness and heartlessness closes and another begins.
Eight sounds depressing, doesn’t it? With all this talk of the futility of contemporary youth and the terrible things we are capable of. But what this production really expresses is the fact that there are no real sins anymore; nothing is sacred, nothing is unforgivably terrible, and everything has been done before. While we drown in our real-life apathy, Eight succeeds in giving a glimmer of hope for the freezing youth of Melbourne who, despite our distance from Buckingham Palace, can see small shards of themselves in the mirrors held before them on stage.
Eight is showing at No Vacancy Gallery until Sunday July 1.