Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

06/08/2011 - 03/09/2011

Production Details

EIGHT lives. SIX choices. YOUR night. 

With eight brilliantly observed and sharply told monologues by eight distinct and unforgettable characters, Eight is a dynamic and interactive theatre event that gives the audience the chance to choose their cast of six for each performance, before they even enter the theatre.

The choice will be based on who they are, where they come from and, with the partnership of a number of innovative New Zealand fashion designers, what they are wearing:
1. Millie – offers a confidential service and wears Madame Hawke.
2. Mona – seeks spiritual security while wearing NOM*d.
3. Danny – hangs out in dark places and wears Workshop.
4. Bobby – a down on her luck single mum who shops at the local op shop.
5. Astrid – stumbles in after a big night out while wearing Lonely Hearts.
6. Miles – the American glory boy in the wrong place at the wrong time wears Mandatory.
7. Andre – sheds light on the contemporary art world and wears Marvel Menswear.
8. Jude – talks about teenage obsession and is dressed by his mum.

Through her unerringly clever and perceptive play, 23-year-old London playwright Ella Hickson has defined her generation on its own terms. Each character offers a refreshingly offbeat take on growing up in a world where EVERYTHING has become acceptable. They’ve all got something to say, the question is, do you want to hear it?

Exclusive fashion and dynamic character – choose your perfect night out!

A specially-designed website has been created at www.eight-circa.com. Audience members will be able to read the character profiles and vote for who they would like to see on their chosen date.

Eight opens in Circa Two on 6 August and runs until 3 September. For his Circa directing debut, well-known Circa actor Simon Vincent has assembled a fresh and exciting cast and crew. The creative team features innovative Set Designer Andrew Foster (The Lead Wait, The Birthday Boy), Lighting Designer Jennifer Lal (The Beat Girls) and Sound Designer Thomas Press (Death and the Dream Life of Elephants).

The cast features some of Wellington’s hottest young actors, each of whom will be playing two of the characters: Chelsea Bognuda (2011 Capital E National Tour), Jonathan Kenyon (Mary Stuart – Auckland Theatre Company), Jessica Robinson (Our Man in Havana, The Year of the Rat – Circa) and Paul Waggott (Death and the Dream Life of Elephants – Downstage).

Ticket prices are Adults $46, Concession $38, Friends of Circa (until 18 August) $33, Groups 6+ $39, Groups 20+ $36 and Under 25s $25. There will be a $25 Preview performance on Friday, 5 August and a $25 Special Sunday performance on 7 August.

“Superbly simple, slick and effective, you’re blown away … a truly impressive and exciting night of theatre; Ella Hickson is a huge writing talent.” – The Scotsman  

Starring Chelsea Bognuda, Jonathan Kenyon, Jessica Robinson, Paul Waggott
Set Designer Andrew Foster
Lighting Designer Jennifer Lal
Sound Designer Thomas Press
Operator Ben Williams
Sponsorship/Publicity Cara Hill 

You be the judge

Review by John Smythe 09th Aug 2011

Serendipitously when I saw the second (Sunday) show, the two monologues not covered in Caoilinn’s review (link below) were included.

Jonathan Kenyon’s intensely focused Danny, whose father died in the Falkland’s war, reveals his fascination for what lies beneath the skin – literally. Is it fortunate that Danny has found the ideal job – hey, what’s wrong with stripping? – or should we be worried?  

As Jude, Paul Waggott gives us a wide-eyed, boyishly English version of The Graduate, albeit abroad on the Riviera. How else should a rich dad complete his son’s education? But will this bring him to maturity or render his attitude to women and wealth forever warped?  

All the monologues provoke engaging questions.

Is Millie Fawcett-Reeves (Jessica Robinson) truly happy in her vocation or does she desire something more? As for her politics …! Is the upper-class woman the struggling solo mum Bobby (Robinson) works for, to prepare a traditional family Christmas feast, purposely called Mrs Beeton to recall the famous Victorian writer of an influential cookbook and would Gen-Y have even heard of her? Or was it she that Bobby simply imagines learning from? As an expose of class difference and the bitterness it can provoke, its resolution is surprisingly positive.

Chelsea Bognuda, who has offered her ‘lifeless’ body to augment the Danny scenario, delivers her compelling Astrid monologue over the senseless body of her ‘partner’ Alan (Waggott). Is it possible to cheat without guilt? Can you achieve self-esteem when you are invisible?

Among the many questions Kenyon’s Miles provokes, “How would I feel and what would I do if I was exposed to so many ‘what ifs’ in confronting my own mortality?” sits under the prevailing question of whether he is an opportunistic sociopath or psychologically damaged through no fault of his own.  

And having found these six characters and Ella Hickson’s commentary on this generation so fascinating and thought-provoking, the other question I’m left with is how can I possibly contrive to see the two I missed out on: Mona the emo (Bognuda) and Andre the art buff (Waggott)? But – as with so many missed films in the film festival – it’s just not possible to have it all. Which I guess is part of the point.

Andrew Foster’s set of wooden slats is worth thinking twice about too. The quotes from the monologues that adorn the slats in Colin McCahon-like handwriting contrast sharply with the clinical sans serif words printed in white on the theatre’s black walls. At first glance that seems to epitomise the difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ – except only the ‘haves’ could afford to have a McCahon in their lives. And of course his quotes were/are biblical while what we are reading here denotes a very different ‘theology’.  

Jennifer Lal’s lighting and Thomas Press’s sound complete the excellent design elements – along with the designer clothing whose labels complete the one-line description of the voting forms.

Director Simon Vincent has drawn it all together to ensure we are drawn to the content being explored. If ever a ‘play’ could have subverted itself by delivering style over substance this would have been it but no: its inquisitorial purpose is honoured, leaving much for us to judge. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Eight becomes six as choice examined

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Aug 2011

Eight is the play you can vote for the characters you would like to see. You can vote on-line or you can vote as you enter the theatre. The voting form provides the briefest of descriptions of them and which New Zealand fashion house has dressed them. You will get to meet six of them.

Ella Hickson states that the commercial world we live in is a ‘choice culture’ (channel surfing /Catch-up TV /X-Factor voting, etc) and each night at this play when we make a choice we are choosing to leave something behind. On opening night we left behind Jude (“who talks about teenage obsession and is dressed by his mum”) and Danny (“who hangs out in dark places and wears Workshop”).

Eight, then, is made up of six monologues which paint a satirical portrait of the playwright’s generation (still in their twenties and thirties), a generation that she says lives in a world of “commercial, aesthetic and sexual excess” which has resulted in “wholesale apathy”.

Sounds tedious and dreary? Not at all. Ella Hickson’s monologues, like Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, capture the outward lives of the characters with accuracy and humour but she burrows away behind the façades fleetingly revealing their deepest feelings.

There’s Millie (Jessica Robinson) who provides traditional services at traditional prices to the right class of client (she would never bonk hoi polloi). And there’s Miles (Jonathan Kenyon) an American banker who uses his lucky escape from the 7/7 terrorist attack in London to lead a hedonistic life. And Bobby (Jessica Robinson), a single mother who works at the local op shop and dreams of giving her kids a perfect Christmas.

And Chelsea Bognuda plays both Mona and Astrid: Mona is looking for some sort of security and looks for it in a churchyard while and Astrid debates with herself about being unfaithful to her long-term boyfriend. But the funniest and the most poignant portrait is of Andre (Paul Waggott in blistering form), a gay art dealer (“gay men do aesthetics like black men do sprints”) whose cynicism about contemporary art and his personal life are brought into focus with the death of his partner who “actually looked at the art” in their gallery.

Despite the pointlessness of the voting, Eight provides an unusual look at contemporary English life performed with some precision (accents are a minor problem) and directed (Simon Vincent) and designed (Andrew Foster) with a welcome freshness.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Relevant, revelatory and entertaining

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 07th Aug 2011

Four talented performers play eight different characters/ monologues in the production of British writer Ella Hickson’s Eight currently running at Circa Theatre. The catch is that we only get to see six of these performances. The play is marketed on its quirk: the audience has to vote which six monologues they want to see before the show. We have to accept the consequences of our choices and heed the feeling of ‘missing out’ as being the point: the modern world is full of choices and we continually leave things behind.

The play has received critical acclaim overseas, but this is likely due to its entertaining, at times poignant script and appealing characters rather than its voting device. If the ‘missing out’ sensation is all that important, it would be heightened if the other two monologues were going on in another room and we were literally missing out on them in real time. Moreover, the play would be better marketed as an opportunity to see six superb performances in a stimulating, contemporary play. 

Jonathan Kenyon plays Miles Cooper: a twenty-something stock broker who gave 10 pence to a man one July day to help him pay for a Mars bar. That man was Asi Mir Hussein, who subsequently got on a bus in London and pressed ‘detonate’. Cooper was the only American on the bus to survive, and it takes him three years of living like David Duchovny to remember that he has a wife and child. He embodies apathy and gluttony: some of the sins of the faithless generation of affluence, which the play presents.

Kenyon performs with the coked-up energy required, and the tailored suit fits pretty well – when he’s not opening and closing the suit jacket, that is. There are moments when the difficult script threatens to take over but Kenyon largely has it in his grasp. 

Jessica Robinson is pitch-perfect and highly entertaining as Millie; a ‘working girl’ who prefers to entertain upper class men who play cricket, enjoy recitations during intercourse and eat food cooked by women in frilly aprons. In a world where women climax to Marks & Spencers adverts, the traditionalist, anti-feminist Millie is struggling to cope with the new status quo. Her mother taught her to how to be the best ‘marital supplement’ she can be, and she simply will not give up the dream of entertaining the ‘educated angels of the eighties’.

Robinson is an actress to watch out for; embracing every brilliant line of dialogue as if the script was written for her. It was a pleasure to see her again as Bobby, a working-class mother dealing with the injustices of wealth on Christmas Eve, when all she wants is for her house to be filled with the nice smells and colourful decorations of her employer’s house. Robinson is credible and heart-felt in this role, even if the Scottish accent was not quite there.

Paul Waggott plays Andre, a homosexual art director who reflects on the strange adult game of his life while his partner’s corpse hangs from a Hermes scarf in the other room. Waggott embraces the character with every flamboyant gesture, whim and rapid-fire witticism. He is credible and charismatic in this role – the only disappointment being that the most weighty lines at the end of the scene are delivered facing the unseen corpse backstage, and Waggott’s voice and expression are lost. I would have liked to have seen those lines delivered, as would I have liked to have seen Waggott’s other performance as Jude… but I missed out. And I don’t feel indifferent about it – so perhaps I’m of a different generation to these characters. 

Finally, Chelsea Bognuda is magnetic as Astrid – a woman who drinks and cheats on her partner, to whom she has become invisible. This concept of invisibility is at the core of the play: it is not invisibility in a relationship due to domesticity or accustomisation; it is invisibility due to lack of difference, and the impossibility of having meaning or standing out in a world where nothing is subversive, particularly valuable or exalting anymore. Bognuda is highly engaging in this role, and manages to be comic while remaining genuine throughout.

She is very comfortable on stage in this role and as Emo character Mona in her second performance; a much more stylized piece about the right of ownership which requires great control of language to manage the poetic dialogue.

With some fantastic performances, guided by director Simon Vincent, Eight is not only entertaining but relevant and revelatory, particularly for the younger generation which abounds in Wellington. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


John Smythe August 8th, 2011

On the contrary, Nathan, Caoilinn’s review encouraged me to vote for Andre when I saw the show on Sunday. Apart from the extolled performance, the review and your comment both made me want to see how such a tragic-sounding revelation could provide the “comic highlight”. Sadly Andre didn’t make the cut but I did see the two Caoilinn missed out on – and I will therefore add a short review before the end of the day (or first thing tomorrow).   

Nathan M August 7th, 2011

Caoilinn, I do have to ask how necessary you think it is to include some of the plot information you have in your review - at least without a spoiler note. In particular, you've disclosed what I think is a big plotpoint within Andre's monologue. While one could debate Andre's boyfriend's means of leaving him is not at the core of what his monologue is really about, the revelation's unexpectedness is arguably the comic highlight of the scene. It seems to me at least that the writer of the character bios has intentionally omitted these specific details as a way of enticing the audience to vote for Andre, yet your inclusion of it within your review almost undermines that. I only raise this because I'd hate to see future audience members lose the opportunity of experiencing Andre's story in the same way that we did on opening night, because they already know its twist.

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