Thursday, 1 September 2011

September's Here Again.

So off we go again a new year to look forward to. Ten years ago I started my MA, twenty years ago I was entering my final year at University and thirty years ago I was heading for my first day of secondary school. If you stay in education Autumn always seems to be the beginning of things.

After work I went with Patsy over to Commodity Quay in St Katherine's Dock to see the first night of the new National Theatre / Headlong production of Decade a kaleidoscopic exploration of events both during and since 9/11. The piece has been created by nineteen celebrated writers from both sides of the Atlantic including verbatim pioneer Alecky Blythe, TV Historian Simon Schama, Mike Bartlett, Samuel Adamson, DC Moore, Abi Morgan and Christopher Shinn.

On one level the collaboration appears mouth watering but, as we headed past 11pm, I began to wonder whether the editing process wouldn't have benefited from some Cameron-esque tough love. Some of the material just isn't well conceived, much of choreography lacks polish and whilst the best of the writing sparkles and shines the jumble of voices and impressions seemed to leave the audience exhausted. The applause at the end was strangely muted.

But it's certainly worth seeing. There are great performances throughout, most notably from Emma Fielding, Charlotte Randle and Tobias Menzies and some of the speculated scenes carry real weight and poignancy. 9/11/2001 was certainly a day of incomprehensible chaos and confusion. Along with everything else I remember being aware that for the first time in my life events were moving quicker than the media could and that much of our understanding of what was occurring came from mobile phone images, last second texts and an explosion of disbelief. As one character rightly points out it was like being suddenly thrown into a disaster movie. What Hollywood had imagined as catharsis New York experienced as reality. 'What would you do? Jump or fry?'

What surprised me watching a response ten years later is that we're still in the forensic process of honouring and listening to every voice. Perhaps the production was being honest in refusing to move away from democratic impressionism? Perhaps the number of collaborators make it inevitable that we'd only receive fragments from an imagined history? Perhaps it's just still to recent to do more than honour the memory? Time may not be able to heal everything but this show couldn't half do with someone making a decision to knock half an hour off it.


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