By Adele Cooke
It’s been a busy year for Hild Bede Theatre. Last term the stage was set with performances of Tartuffe and The Graduate. This is set to continue, with upcoming productions including the likes of Rock of Ages and, of course, Ella Hickson’s Eight. Amongst such an array of talent and performances, it’s easy for some productions to blend into the background. However, this most certainly is not the case for Eight.
Comprised of eight monologues, the play draws its audience in by allowing them to vote on the running order of each night. Although this at first appears gimmicky, the play goes on to entice its audience and ultimately explore how ‘choice culture’ works in our society. Originally premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008, Eight was formed around the results of a survey that asked twenty-somethings what defines their generation. Director Corinna Harrison and assistant director Rachel Davies are keen to bring this concept to life, with clear enthusiasm and a strong cast ethos. Davies says that the “group dynamic” is one of the highlights of this production, but states that she is most excited “to see the choice element of the audience.” Harrison reaffirms this enthusiasm, excitedly stating “it’s going to be different every night.” Its production team aims to create a sense of intimacy with the play, utilising a small audience of around fifty. Forming more of a conversation than a play, Harrison affirms that “these characters are literally talking to the audience.” This is especially important since the production’s characters are ‘people sharing very deep emotions, their deepest darkest secrets. This is their chance to explain themselves.’
What’s also refreshing about Eight is its diversity, both in terms of its characters, and in its clear contrast from other student productions. Davies describes how the play includes “a lot of different types of voices … we have an American, Scottish, Preston-Bolton, it’s quite good to have that difference.” Harrison confirms this, adding that “you don’t hear that’ difference in many other shows. Presenting this diversity allowed Ella Hickson to portray characters who are ‘very much the people … at the fringes of society’.” This emphasis on diversity and originality can also be seen in HBT’s choice of casting Tyler Rainford as Astrid. Harrison explains that “at the end of the day we chose the people who were just best for the role.” She adds: “we asked Tyler to read Astrid on a whim and… it just kind of worked … because Tyler actually does identify as a female … they are playing it as themselves but identifying as a woman.” What’s gratifying in this decision is the way Tyler’s ‘become more and more confident’ as rehearsals have progressed.
Davies is also expanding her theatrical expertise, as Harrison notes that this is Rachel’s first venture into the ‘creative side of things’ due to the fact ‘she’s done lots of stage managing before,’ including sound-teching ‘every musical Hild Bede has done.’ Modestly, Davies confirms this with a smile, adding that “‘I’m one of the tech directors for Durham Drama Festival'” But above all, Harrison and Davies share a commitment to student theatre and to HBT in particular, with Harrison working on The Graduate last year. Following this show’s run, the duo will be entering the play in the National Student Drama Festival, and with such a high level of expertise between them, Eight is a likely shoe-in for future success.
‘Eight’ will be performed in Caedmon Hall, Hild Bede from Thursday, 26th of January until Saturday, 28th of January at 20:00. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Hild Bede Theatre