It isn’t often you go to the theatre on a Friday night to feel yourself in danger of becoming an accessory to murder. But if this is the effect this UK premiere of Robert Thomas’s Eight Women aims to achieve, it certainly succeeds.
Set in the intimacy of a comfortable living room complete with After Eight mints (nice touch!), this is a real comedy thriller. In a room at the back of the auditorium, the man of the house has been found murdered. As we are introduced to our eight suspects, we find every female stereotype represented; the bored wife, the nervy sister-in-law and the ungrateful mother-in-law, joined by the loyal housekeeper, the naughty French-cum-Welsh maid, the flighty sister and the petulant and dutiful daughters.
As high drama ensues amidst every cliché you would expect from a classic whodunnit – poisoned dogs, a severed phone line and horrendous winter weather preventing escape – the various females’ predicaments, agendas and conflicts with one another in relation to the victim are revealed. Bitch fights erupt and events spiral into farcical chaos with none of the black humour lost in Donald Sturrock’s clever translation. There are some side-splitting one-liners delivered with superb comic timing, all in the absence of the one emotion you might expect; grief. Elgiva Field’s brilliant direction ensures perfect use of the space, the ladies’ constant thundering up and down the centre aisle towards the hidden room guaranteeing audience involvement.
Sasha Waddell’s Regan is little more than a caricature, but this is perhaps the aim; a ball of paranoid neurosis tormented with unrequited love, she careers about the set like Jennifer Saunders on speed, never failing to entertain. Tamara Hinchco gives one of the best portrayals of a comic drunk I have ever witnessed and Clara Andersson is deliciously malevolent as ‘evil’ Aunt Zinka. The real show-stealer, though, is young Sophie Kennedy Clark who shines throughout, exploring every facet of her teenaged character with ease until the play’s end when she becomes the commanding, centre-stage lynchpin, drawing events to a close and orchestrating the inevitable twist…
Eight Women is one of those good old-fashioned hoots we should all be treated to now and again. Catch it whilst you can… and watch your back!