Theatre Review: Eight

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EIGHT **** BEDLAM THEATRE (VENUE 49)

AT THE door of the Bedlam Theatre, you're presented with a voting slip, and a brisk verbal thumbnail sketch of eight characters aged between 15 and 30, all living in Britain now. You vote for the four characters you want to hear from, and the company counts the votes; then, in a superbly simple, slick and effective performance, you're blown away by four terrific 15-minute monologues that succeed, in less than an hour, in saying far more about the mood of modern Britain than some of the nation's leading playwrights can apparently manage in a two-hour drama.

This is Eight, the latest Festival show from Edinburgh University Theatre Company, written and directed by Ella Hickson, who has based her work on a survey of British twentysomethings which asked them what qualities or experiences define their generation. On the day I saw the show, we heard from Jude, a teenage boy desperately in love with a middle-aged woman; Bobby, a single mum trying to make Christmas OK for her kids; and from Andre, a gay man on the visual arts scene whose lover has just committed suicide. And above all, we heard from Miles, a 7/7 bombing survivor whose monologue seemed to me one of the finest pieces of writing I've yet heard about the aftermath of that terrible day.

All four pieces are stunningly well performed, by student actors whose skill and commitment puts many of their professional colleagues to shame, and the subtle touch of reality-show cruelty and arbitrariness in the choice of characters we hear from adds a brilliant contemporary twist. Frankly, I could have done without the easy Tracey Emin jokes in art-dealer Andre's monologue; any fool can mock Emin. But that tiny reservation apart, this is a truly impressive and exciting hour of theatre; and Ella Hickson is clearly not only a huge writing talent, but also a mean director, too.

Until 23 August. Today noon

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