This month The People’s Theatre in Heaton hosts its member-produced rendition of Eight.
Ella Hickinson’s Eight brought her nationwide attention when it debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008. This series of eight stories told in monologue introduce us to the variety of characters that patchwork 21st century Britain. Hickinson describes her assemblage of characters, from Millie the high-class hooker mourning the loss of the British class system to 7/7 survivors, as “[representing] a generation living in a world were it seems anything and everything has become acceptable.”
this is clearly a playwright with a consciousness of national identity
The quality of this production can be understood by its collection of awards, including a Fringe First and Carol Tambor’s “Best of Edinburgh”. The play then went on to good review off-Broadway. Then in 2012, it entered the West End in a production by Nabakov and the Soho Theatre, alongside with Tom Wells and Nick Payne. Her later dramas have included Precious Little Talent, which addresses the journey of an English girl in America and Anglo-American relations. This is clearly a playwright with a consciousness of national identity.
Her distinction between commercial awareness and “’art’ in its highest sense” is something that allowed her to initially produce Eight herself at Edinburgh whilst maintaining the art of writing. As Eight returns to the diverse stretches of Britain in the North East, it will be interesting to see how the recently upgraded and community-focused People’s Theatre addresses the growing professionalism and expectations of this initially stripped-down review of Britons.