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Review: 8:8 (Summerhall, Edinburgh)

This provocative piece puts eight performers and audience members together in a room

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
8:8
© Nelly Rodriguez

There are probably quite a few shows at the Edinburgh Fringe where there are as many performers on stage as there are people in the audience, but rarely is that out of design. 8:8, courtesy of Mercimax as part of Pro Helvetia's Swiss Selection at the Fringe, takes the idea and runs with it in what is an intriguingly charming but gradually underwhelming experience.

The piece begins with eight punters in an empty room and, as the title suggests, eight performers file in and stand opposite. It's an exposing moment – each group weighing up the other. Some audience members giggle at the intimacy of it all. Slowly but surely the actors begin to move, in synchronicity, forming shapes and choreographed lines across the space. It's like watching a slow-motion reimagining of 42nd Street without the tap dancing or sparkling sequins. Eventually the eight sit down and start describing elements of their lives. At the end of each anecdote they say "that's true", or, "that's partially true". We have no way of knowing if they're lying.

8:8 throws out a lot of questions. Who exactly is performing in a piece of art? What does it mean to suspend our disbelief and empathise with something that could be entirely fictitious? The problem is that, having established this intimate, tight and slightly revealing connection, the piece doesn't really go much further. Closeness, in essence, is the conclusion, and it comes within about five minutes.

By the end of the show a 70 year-old woman is left staring into my eyes as her worries about life, love and death are played exclusively to me through a pair of headphones. She waits, scrutinising my reaction. I can't tell who's performing most – me trying to give her the response she wants or her, absorbed in a character. A fascinating if frustrating half hour experience.

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