Review: 8:8

Sixteen strangers connect with each other one on one, but this project lacks intimacy

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Photo by Alex Brenner
Published 12 Aug 2019

Eight audience members; eight performers. They file in, and there's nothing to do but stare at them. The man in the flamingo t-shirt with the bare feet. I don't trust him. They turn – give us sight of all angles. Hang on: the lady with the curly hair has a tattoo running down her neck. They move about in sync. Who's leading here? They fan out. The big fella – he's surprisingly light on his feet. What's going on?

After what feels like an age, they speak. Facts (or are they?) about their lives are ours to scrutinise. And then 8:8 goes to 1:1. Staring into the eyes of a stranger, hearing them speak their truth to you alone, it's hard not to experience a genuine connection – these are, after all, real people from Edinburgh, not actors. A smile is reciprocated and it certainly feels like the real deal. With every piece of new information, it becomes harder to judge, and easier to connect.

In truth, there's an edge missing. Details matter when you're toying with emotions as Swiss theatre company Mercimax do here, and there's just too much hubbub, too many doors slammed and feet stamped in the Summerhall courtyard upstairs for our worlds to shrink to only us 16. And though the spark of a connection feels real in the moment, one can't shake the feeling that it means nothing when the audience is a passive recipient. We give and risk nothing, punters waving notes on a night out in a seedy bar. Pretty great while it lasts, though.