'Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain?' Act V, Scene III Macbeth
Where were you on 9/11? It’s the question that most people have a distinct answer for, but rarely have the consequences been discussed. Dramsoc's DECADE, written ten years after the event, takes fifteen of the stories and combines them into one play, presenting a marathon cross-study of individual reactions and effects from that memorable day in September, 2001.
The intro choreography was undeniably very slick and immediately grabbing. This was followed by the opening monologue – the first of many- delivered by Ed Lees. It has to be said his performance throughout was captivating. I found myself completely drawn in when he spoke; his casual but sincere honesty gave me goose-bumps when performed alongside a haunting piano melody and a single spotlight.
The play presents multiple characters who each give their take on 9/11. Most were refreshing and ranged from the woman fed up with going to memorial services, to a 9/11 museum gift-shop worker who charms emotional female visitors -this sleazy New Yorker was pulled off very well by Joe Samrai. These were the stories that made the play original. I wasn’t a fan of the more inevitable inputs such as the Muslim man and woman who (individually) descend on the audience at various intervals throughout the play to speak about how they are perceived as terrorists on public transport. Though this is still definitely an issue, I felt it could have been portrayed much more artistically. The cast used their numbers well in other scenes; though the presentation of the targeted individual was meant to draw our attention and empathy, it merely lacked energy and seemed predictable.
The stories were good. They were human; not overly flashy or dramatic, and this was portrayed well by the whole cast. Standouts for me included Erica Flint and Alex Jenn’s psychiatric therapy session (including very polished New York accents which can be very distracting if not done well). Flavia Cheeseman’s depiction of one of the survivors was visceral: ‘I was choking on the smell of burnt skin and people’s insides’. The speed dating scene was genuinely very funny with audience members bursting into laughter. I would have liked to have seen more from Oskar House and Charlie Wright; the small roles they played were very entertaining.
There was definitely repetition and pacing issues in the play which perhaps explains why it was three hours long! Having already sat through two hours of the same pattern of intermixing dialogues, the audience was ready for a change of dynamics after Act 1, so it was a shame that Act 2 followed the same structure. Scenes were continued when they didn’t need to be and there were jagged switches between solitary monologues and chaotic, high energy, loud fanfare sequences which were too busy to follow. The last thirty minutes dragged; the same airport scene extended without much momentum and plot development. To me it seemed too comical and unbelievable - two Australian film agents more preoccupied on getting Bruce Willis to star in their next film instead of watching the events unfold on live TV? I just don’t see it happening. Most of the characters didn’t seem exquisitely bothered about what was going on. Though the acting was high-quality, I think it was wasted here; this scene should have possibly even been cut out.
The show ended with a powerful, emotive piece of physical theatre directed by Katie Crisp and Clodagh Chapman. I was impressed with all the actors and each one should be praised for various talents and performances: the emotional breakdowns, the New York cynicism and the air-headed celebrities. I think with shorter scenes and fewer monologues the play would keep the audience’s attention held throughout and truly do justice to the actors’ talents.
Ella Faye Howcroft