London theatre's most overt attempt to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary comes from director Rupert Goold and his Headlong theatre company, who've put together Decade from contributions by 19 British and American writers. Goold and set designer Miriam Buether have gone for a similar staging to the one they created for last year's Earthquakes in London - this time part of an office building in St Katherine Docks has been transformed into the World Trade Centre's Windows On The World Restaurant where (after going through security checks from some of the cast) we're seated at tables for breakfast on the morning of September 11th. Malcolm Rippeth's lighting impressively helps achieve this effect - a scene near the end of the sun coming up on the Restaurant felt so realistic as to be quite moving to me. Emma Williams' costumes, mostly black, all come with a layer of dust.
There are a lot of dance sequences but fortunately this isn't really "9/11 interpreted through the gift of dance" but for the most part linking devices between the various scenes, and most of Scott Ambler's choreography is effective. The multitude of writers means a lot of different styles and varying success rates, and while there's few truly genius moments there's no spectacular misfires either - a few pieces tend towards the dull side and some are too oblique in what they're trying to say. It's not easy to pinpoint who wrote what, although Simon Schama's contributions are pretty obvious, as are Alecky Blythe's. In fact with Blythe's London Road co-creator Adam Cork composing the show's score, we even get a verbatim musical scene, as texts sent on the day are turned into a song, one of the most powerful moments of the night. One of the most thought-provoking but also one of the few darkly funny scenes sees a souvenir stallholder at Ground Zero (Jonathan Bonnici) picking up distraught women; the character's an immigrant from Panama, and thinks being mistaken for a muslim is why he gets so much sex from women with a need to get something out of their systems. Andy and I were discussing whether this might be Mike Bartlett or DC Moore's contribution.
The story that holds the show together sees three widows of men who'd worked in the WTC (Emma Fielding, Amy Lennox and Charlotte Randle) meeting in a diner every year on the anniversary, their story seen in reverse and fantastically told and acted, with an unexpected coda. I thought we were going to get another recurring story with Tobias Menzies as an English employee at the WTC who survived because it was his day off; the character returns to tell us of how a casual comment he made online made him a focus for conspiracy theorists and I thought we were going to get more on that but we don't. The excellent Cat Simmons opens the show with a song and later plays a woman who changed her mind about having an abortion when she heard news of the attacks. There's a brief look at how they defined the decade outside of the US with a visit to a hospital in Pakistan, but that does mainly show up how most of what we're seeing is US-centric. The stableful of writers was always going to be both the show's biggest strength and its weakness but while it's a strange show at times Decade does avoid sentimentality for the most part and covers some interesting ground.
Decade by Samuel Adamson, Mike Bartlett, Alecky Blythe, Ben Ellis, Ella Hickson, Samuel D. Hunter, John Logan, Matthew Lopez, Mona Mansour, DC Moore, Abi Morgan, Rory Mullarkey, Janine Nabers, Lynn Nottage, Harrison Rivers, Simon Schama, Christopher Shinn, Beth Steel and Alexandra Wood, conceived by Rupert Goold and Robert Icke, is booking until the 15th of October at Commodity Quay, St Katherine Docks.