Theatre review: 8 : 8, Summerhall, Edinburgh

In a modestly-sized square box of a room, eight audience members gather and sit in a row, facing inwards.

8:8, Summerhall (Venue 26)
8:8, Summerhall (Venue 26)

8 : 8, Summerhall, Edinburgh * * *

The show begins when eight others file in and line up along the wall, then take irregular steps forward, so they’re spaced out like a constellation of people across the floor. A silence so long and unbearable follows that one or two of us might glance towards the tech for help, and then they’re on the move; at first choreographed in motion across the floor, then sitting in a row telling us intimate facts and stories (at the end of each informing us of the degree of truth contained therein), and finally gazing into one another’s’ eyes one-to-one as we each listen to a bespoke recording of their voice.

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All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

Created by Swiss company Mercimax (Jessica Huber and Karin Arnold), this project has a fascinating background in that it’s a response to the referendum decision of the Swiss people to automatically expel foreign visitors for committing crimes. The intention is to foster a sense of empathy when strangers present themselves before you and talk with a sense of clear (mostly) honesty. Whether that works in practice or not – especially for those who find eye contact difficult – is another matter, but either way the intimacy of the experience makes a big impression.

Until 25 August

David Pollock

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