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A Wapping review of ‘Decade’ at Commodity Quay

A Wapping review of ‘Decade’ at Commodity Quay

“A theatrical experience you won’t forget”.

Wapping residents and keen theatre-goers Paul and Hannah watched the new production of ‘Decade’ at Commodity Quay last weekend and rate the production:

“3 ½ out of 5 – a well-produced play, but suffers from source material of variable quality held together with some terrific acting.”

Read Paul and Hannah’s full review below and get the promotional code to book your discounted tickets online for shows before 8th October.

Two Towers, ten years and thousands of opinions

Decade is the latest site-specific play to come to Wapping, and like Faust, which was staged in the now demolished warehouse at 21 Wapping Lane, this production is in association with the National Theatre. It is directed by Rupert Goold, perhaps best known for directing ENRON and the recent stage production of Oliver!

Decade is not a standard play by any stretch, there is no plot, there is no linear chronology and very few named characters. It has been put together by Headlong by asking twenty writers to respond to the decade after ‘9/11’.

Not all of the texts made it into the play- we counted 5 from the published play texts that didn’t make it in. However, rather than being a simple series of separate works, Goold has weaved them together, with some pieces being played out in full in one go, others spread out in snippets over the course of the production. Having such a wide range of source material does cause some problems, as we found some far more engaging (indeed we each have our own preferences) than others, which gives it an uneven feel.

The standard of production is, as one would expect from Goold, very high.

The auditorium is a converted trading floor in Commodity Quay in Katherine Docks, transformed into the Windows on the World Restaurant in the World Trade Centre, with panoramic views of the New York skyline. Seating is a mixture of cabaret style tables, booths and a long banquette seat alone one wall.

We’d advise arriving early as seating is unallocated, and also allows you to enjoy the ticket checking process (we shan’t spoil this little surprise). The staging makes excellent use of the whole space of the venue, and especially the glazed mezzanine gallery the runs the length of the room.

The acting is consistently excellent, but special praise should go to Tobias Menzies’ very simple, dry monologue based on the words of Scott Forbes, a British IT worker, who worked in the World Trade Centre. Both of us thought that it was the sections of Decade that used Forbes’s own account of the run-up to ‘9/11’ and his attempt to seek answers that were easily the most compelling.

Other standout sections included the tale of Tania Head, a Spanish ‘survivor’ of ‘9/11’, again based on real-life events and the story of an opportunistic lothario taking advantage of his position at the Ground Zero gift shop.

There are some lovely flourishes of choreography between scenes, though some felt more like filler, but were a welcome reminder of what made ENRON such a success.

Image of cast dancing

Ultimately, had Goold been a bit more judicious, excluding a few more plays from the published twenty it would have improved the consistency of the production, which felt perhaps half an hour too long.

One thing is certain, and that is that you’ll come away with plenty to discuss, even if you are unsure what it was all about, it’s a theatrical experience that you won’t forget.

Our Wapping reviewers

Paul and Hannah are Wapping residents and keen theatre-goers. They can be spotted around Wapping arguing about the literary merits of prologues and taking part in the Town of Ramsgate quiz. Their new blog, ‘Eastenders in the West End’ will be launching soon.

Decade performance and ticket information

Monday- Saturday 7.30pm with matinees on Saturday at 2.30pm [view preview]. Running time: 3 hours with one interval.

Price: £35, unallocated seating. Arrive early for a chance at the best seats but £25 tickets for performances until 8th October if you book online at http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/decade and use promo code 4226.

Location: Commodity Quay, St Katharine Docks, 1 East Smithfield, London E1W 1AZ (enter from East Smithfield, not the docks).

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  • Anonymous

    Saw Decade in its last week. Found it much too long, although I liked the movement sequences. Charlotte Randle was excellent as 9/11 survivors hoaxer Tania head, and as a 9/11 widow. Same for Jonathan Bonnici as the seducing souvenir salesman. Some American accents were wobbly though, most notably Claire Prempeh as the waitress who announced successive 9/11 dates each year the widows met. Headlong hired an accent coach, Richard Ryder, but it seems as though he didn’t work at all with Prempeh. Her accent meandered all over, and at times was stereotypical. It was embarrassing to listen to. Her small but important role, bookending each widow section, was key. But her accent ruined the believability of the show for me. 

  • http://www.paulbrockphotography.co.uk Brock

    hmmm might have to check it out!

  • Sam

    Definitely high octane, and intensely directed; but at 3 hours, far too long (in a cold venue, to boot).  Agree that Windows on the World setting, and loud blackouts, were far too specific for a show trying not to replicate 9/11.

    Would have liked to see script, and which plays didnt make the final cull. Some scenes, trying to make the link between 9/11 and American politics, such as one in a Karachi hospital after Benazir Bhutto’s death, fell flat (I didnt like the silly dance after that scene either). Others, like actor Jonathan Bonnici’s 9/11 souvenir seducing man, were engrossing and made food for thought. Some linking pieces, like actor Kevin Harvey’s perfect facsimile of Obama’s Bin Laden speech, worked well.

    Excellent cast, aside from the VERY annoying accent wobbles mentioned by others (Claire Prempeh must have made her own decisions without care from Rupert Goold).

    If you get a ticket offer code, dress warmly, and eat beforehand, it’s worth a watch.

  • Carrie

    Sorry I mean Jonathan Bonnici.

  • Carrie

    Just saw it with group of American friends. They were surprised to sit in a Windows on the World set, and see numerous blackouts with crashing noises throughout the play, because Rupert Goold was trying not to recreate the event itself.

    My friends pointed out some writing inconsistancies- such as the word “list ticker” instead of “list checker” in the otherwise smashing scene of a souvenir seller who sweetly seduces women at ground zero.

    It was as tightly directed as a 3 hour play can be. The actors were excellent, including Tobias Menzies and Jonathan Mancini.

    But some of the accents were uneven. Emma Fielding’s New York accent wavered greatly. And Claire Prempeh wavered in and out of several different, weirdly exaggerated accents for the same character. One wonders if they tried to save money by not hiring a dialect coach. What a shame.

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  • Josephine

    Went myself last weekend. Didn’t know what to expect and had really only booked it as was intrigued to see how they used the Commodity Quay site as the topic of 9/11 didn’t really excite me. It was very good – an immersive, high octane yet thought provoking production and, like Paul says – excellent acting ( and several recognisable faces among them -that guy from Eastenders/that girl from The Bill - who can be spotted in the Living Room afterwards!). I personally didn’t find it too long but yes, it is longer than your average piece. NB the theatre space is quite cold – come prepared!