Review: Decade – Commodity Quay (Headlong Theatre)

911, The American number to dial in case of emergency. 9/11 – a date indelibly seared in the minds of those who witnessed the terrorist attacks in New York. At the time of the attacks, breakfast was being served in the Windows On The World restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre when the first plane struck. 164 staff and guests were in the restaurant at the time. None escaped the disaster.

It is into an eerily accurate replica of the Windows On The Word restaurant, audiences for Headlong Theatre’s Decade enter. Designer Miriam Buether has once again created a totally immersive experience, one that is not entirely comfortable to those who recall the now lost restaurant. In a transformed trading hall in St Katherine’s Dock writers have been invited to give their response to 9/11. Despite the numerous pens, it turns out to be a cohesive and gripping evening. Twenty authors are credited but this is a shifting work, the published script containing plays not included in the final performance.

Director Rupert Goold, who conceived the piece with Robert Icke has stitched these numerous pens together into an evening of powerful theatricality. The writers themselves offer a variety of approaches; verbatim recollections from eye witnesses and survivors, political and religious rhetoric and every day New Yorkers who are coming to terms with the aftermath of 9/11.

Providing the structural glue to the piece is Matthew Lopez’s look at three widows annual meeting on each anniversary. Sometime it is difficult to comprehend the scale of large event such as this, therefore by focusing in on a smaller group it makes it easier, though no less painful, to comprehend.

Given the many hands, it is at not surprising that Decade is at times uneven and that some of the plays would benefit from being cut or even removed without loss to the whole, though the overall scale and humanity of the piece make these minor niggles.

Goold has assembled a strong ensemble, all of who provide the myriad of characters with carefully drawn detail. Performing in and among the audience, there is a conviction here that can’t help by move.

This is epic theatre with a real intimate, emotional heart. Goold orchestrates the numerous strands and together with choreographer Scott Ambler provide a constantly flowing piece that holds attention throughout the three hours. The production sensibly avoids any attempt to recreate the attacks themselves, instead relying on Adam Cork’s effective soundscape and haunting images of actors frozen looking in horror at the sky.

In a week where we are awash with material on 9/11, Decade provides a remarkable evening looking not only of the events of that fateful day but of the wider impact of terrorism, patriotism and loss.

Ten years on and the events of that fateful September morning still resonate across the world and impact or everyday lives. Decade will also live long in the memory of those who have seen it, words and images that vividly portray the sheer grief and tragedy of that day but also the hope and humanity that untimely overcomes.

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