Paul Blenheim, Tegan Crowly, Ray Chong Nee, Liza Dennis, Tom Dent, Belinda Misevski, Adele Perovic, & Benjamin Rigby star in a refreshingly raw and modern play titled EIGHT which seasoned at Empty Space Gallery, Melbourne. But why see EIGHT, here are (not-by-coincidence) EIGHT reasons.
One; The space EIGHT was performed in, Empty Space Gallery, which can be found down Jane-Bell lane within the Melbourne CBD, is a modest space, which I assume, was previously a shop front. Yet this bare room creates a terrifically simple yet urban performance space, perfect for a raw and modern play such as this. Exposed pipes and lighting against plain grey concrete add to the industrialised theatre experience. What this bare space does do is force the actors to be even more expressive, with no prop, projection or piece of furniture available to help create the world their character lives in, save a Union Jack painted palate in the centre of the stage. Although I use the term stage loosely, as it is the floor both the audience and performers stand on, which does create a reduced experience for those stuck in the back rows, with the majority of the stage blocked by the backs of, equally as transfixed, audience heads.
Two; EIGHT has a delightfully entertaining structure, unlike tradition the 1-3 act play structure, beginning middle end, or Shakespeare’s 1-5 acts, the narrative is not linear, but the combination of 8 separate stories, with seemingly no obvious connection. If you were to endeavour to find a connection, it could be the setting, London, England, but in saying that it could represent any city, and the diverse lives of the unique people whom occupy it. In my attempt to give sense to this obscure structure it seems the connection is human nature, with each characters engagingly unveiling their lives to the audience, and the tribulations they’ve overcome.
Three; The actors, with an equal number of cast members as the title suggests, this ensemble of EIGHT actors are the corner stone of this play. So much responsibility is on their, sometimes exposed, shoulders (for there is partial nudity), with only a complimentary soundtrack and basic lighting assisting the theatrical fantasy they’ve created for the audience. These wonderfully skilful actors individually create their world effectively, it seems that each monologue is better than before. Yet that gives the assumption the first monologue is the weakest, which is completely untrue, I would argue they’re all equally entertaining, yet all appeal to us in different ways.
Four; The seamless transition of emotions and mood, there are countless moments of both overwhelming laughter and out-loud gasps of shock, all of which are within the same monologue. Every monologue travels a journey of discovery through the, initially mysterious, life of these complex characters. These monologues are a truthful and raw snapshot into the lives of characters as complex and confused as ourselves, yet some in quite extreme circumstances, providing an extremely honest portrait of human nature.
Five; The Script, its the words of this play are were the power lies. As discussed previously, the stage, props and lighting provide little to no assistance in creating the world of the characters, with the actor’s abilities forced to create this world. If the actors are the painters of this illusion, then the words, the script, is their tool, and it is a powerful and perfectly crafted tool, which they have been entrusted to wield. The words not only form the world around the actors, but also create the power which connects us to these characters, with a balance of humour, slang, honesty and modern, realistic response.
Six; The wonderful accents, each character superbly applies a foreign accent, and even though they’re mostly English, we still have variety, each individual character brings a different regional twang to their English accents. These characters are foreign, the accents support this, yet the themes of human nature connect us to them, they may be from England, but they have the same insecurities, desires and problems as we do. The director could have easily opted to not use accents, but I believe the accents enforce the universality of human behaviour, connecting everyone, no matter where you live.
Seven; Gold Coin donations for beer and wine, I think speaks for itself.
Eight; Did I mention the space, I know I’ve already mentioned it, which means I’m kind of cheating on my EIGHT reasons gimmick. But this space created an excitingly different Theatre experience, its nakedness, its simplicity was pleasing change to traditional Theatre, which I do enjoy, but for those who are searching for a original and distinctive theatre experience, keep an eye of this Empty Space (Gallery).
This play has now closed
EIGHT, is written by English playwright Ella Hickson