Ella Hickson's Eight is a play comprising eight monologues which together offer a state-of-the-nation group portrait of a generation growing up amidst a consumerist boom. It was first performed at Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on 2 August 2008.
The eight different characters in the play (there is a ninth, Buttons, included in the published script) range in age from seventeen to their early thirties. Each of them, as Hickson writes in an introduction to the published script, is the product of 'a world in which the central value system is based on an ethic of commercial, aesthetic and sexual excess'. Millie is a jolly-hockey-sticks prostitute mourning the loss of the good old British class system. Miles is a survivor of the 7 July London Tube bombings. Danny is an ex-squaddie who makes friends in morgues. Teenager Jude finds himself attracted to an alluring older woman. André’s boyfriend has just committed suicide. Bobby is struggling to make ends meet for her two young children. Mona is trying to keep her secrets safe from prying eyes. Astrid is cheating on her boyfriend. Buttons is being released from jail tomorrow, having served ten years.
The premiere production was directed by Ella Hickson and designed by David Lookin. The cast was Henry Peters as Danny, Simon Ginty as Jude, Michael Whitham as André, Holly McLay as Bobby, Alice Bonifacio as Mona, Solomon Mousley as Miles, Ishbel McFarlane as Millie and Gwendolen von Einsiedel as Astrid.
In each performance of this production, only four of the monologues were performed, selected by the audience. As Hickson describes in her introduction, 'When I directed the first production of the play, I offered the audience short character descriptions of all eight characters before the play began. I then asked them to vote for the four characters whom they wanted to see. As the audience entered the auditorium, all eight characters were lined up across the front of the stage – but only the four characters with the highest number of votes would perform. The other four characters would remain onstage, reminding the audience that in each choice we make we are also choosing to leave something behind.' Hickson also gives her rationale for staging the production in this way: 'One of the central characteristics of the commercial world that Eight explores is ‘choice culture’. From channel-surfing to Catch-Up TV and X-Factor voting – we are a choosy bunch, we get what we want when we want it. Eight reflects this in its set-up.'
The play was awarded a Fringe First Award and the Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh’ Award.
The production transferred to Performance Space 122, New York, as part of the COIL Festival, on 6 January 2009, and Trafalgar Studios, London, on 6 July 2009.