Decade is an ambitious production, but one that fails to live up to its exciting premise. This showcase of new writing in response to 9/11 is split into two parts, each containing five of its ten pieces. This review is based on the performance which features Superman, Speed Date, The Enemy, Lynndie England, and Recollections of Scott Forbes.
This play is full of great ideas which are poorly realised.
The new writing varies from strong to mediocre. Unfortunately, the majority of the pieces are hampered by poor acting. Accents vary in quality, several voices lack adequate variation in tone and parts are clumsily overacted. Whilst some pieces, such as Speed Date, remain captivating despite a poorly portrayed protagonist, others lose their potential for pace. In particular, Superman feels so stilted in its performance that it is difficult to have any emotional response to the characters.
However, Frazer Hadfield should be highly commended for his compelling acting throughout. He and Oliver Clayton perform The Enemy with an electric rapidity which emphasises the high stakes of their conversation. Delivered with the two simply sitting down, talking, this is also one of the few pieces which isn’t crammed with theatrical conceits. From the mimes of getting ready in the morning to the set which gets tidied as the play continues, to the use of synchronised movement where three people represent one, Decade sometimes feels rather too like a piece of GCSE theatre, hurriedly ticking boxes.
This play is full of great ideas which are poorly realised. For example, between the main pieces, verbatim accounts of 9/11 experiences are read from tags which are hung upstage. Unfortunately, these passages are neither read with consistent neutrality nor acted. They are sometimes too quiet or too fast to be heard. In stark contrast is the performance of Recollections of Scott Forbes, an edited verbatim account. Delivered boldly, with the three actors holding eye contact with the audience, this piece swells with intensity and is a glimpse at what the other accounts could have been.
Ultimately, Decade contains so much fascinating material that it is worth watching. It is just a shame that the potential of this production’s contents is not realised through its performance.