The set was bare and basic - eight chairs set out up stage, beneath a selection of mounted stag horns; proudly forcing home both venue and play. The space was long, narrow and intimate, with every bead of sweat and fleck of spit visible. A fitting atmosphere therefore for the revelation of intimate secrets. The delightfully simple lay out was let down however by needless lighting changes, that took the audience out of lap land and back into central London.
We are presented with eight archetypal characters in the reindeer. A brash, arrogant, young buck, an ageing father, a seductive temptress, a reformed young offender, a definitively camp poser, a vain and deluded actor, a girly dancer and a dominating, suit wearing mother hen. The substance and back story of these characters is fascinating. Humane and intricate. They are not human, but reindeer - a delightful concept. What wasn't wonderful was much of the acting. Some monologues were simply much better than others. The ageing father figure (Donner) was brilliantly portrayed by Martin Ritchie. He embodied the pain of betrayal in wittingly letting the paedophilic Santa take advantage of his disabled son Rudolph, with subtle poise. On the other hand, the girly dancer, (Dancer), was unconvincingly put across by Heather Johnson. I'm afraid to say that Heather was an example of a few of the other performers, in having just left Drama School, and lacking confidence. It is sad that this production is proof that with experience often comes simple good acting.
"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" creates an intriguing ridiculous world. But that is it. There is nothing wrong with that if that is the intention of a production; in fact it is a very admirable achievement. What isn't admirable is claiming to be making a profound social comment, and simply not. Why claim to be profound when you can settle for the ridiculous?