Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), May 19 – 24, 2015
Playwright: Melissa Lee Speyer
Director: Rachel Chant
Cast: Joel Horwood, Rosie Lourde
Image by Pamela Amores
The act of storytelling can sometimes be more interesting than the actual content being shared. This is an important feature of theatrical experiences, because original stories are hard to come by, but finding new ways to relay old tales is what keeps us challenged and excited. Melissa Lee Speye’s Decay experiments with timelines and plot structures, using very little words, to create a work that depicts the human condition in a truthful but unusual light. The context involves death and disaster, but the production is not particularly moving. Instead, it connects with our curiosity and intellect for a seventy-minute journey that is more cerebral than visceral. It interacts with us by prompting a series of questions that may be about the characters on stage, but mostly, of the world in general.
Centre stage is Joel Horwood, who takes on the challenge of portraying extreme emotions but without the indulgence of a conventional narrative flow. The actor manufactures tension well, and it is clear to see that he invests heavily into the role’s emotional arc. Horwood is dynamic and focused, but the mysterious nature of the play prevents us from getting too caught up with the protagonist in all his drama. Direction by Rachel Chant gives the production a tautness in pace and atmosphere, and her commitment to an unconventional and sometimes surreal theatrical form is refreshing and quite courageous. Nate Edmondson’s sound design is cleverly imagined, and beautifully realised. Without many spoken lines to occupy our minds with, Edmondson’s contribution takes on greater importance than usual. More than any other element of the show, it is the sound that provides us with the information required to help make sense of the intriguing chaos that unfolds.
Toying with conventions is always risky, and in the case of Decay, it ticks many boxes but leaves us cold. It does not entertain sufficiently, but it satisfies in other ways. With a defined artistic vision, we are impressed by the way it bends rules and negotiates boundaries. There is good work to be admired herein, and like most daring ventures, it will unsettle a little, and at times, it might even disappoint, but we can be certain that what is served is not rehashed rubbish rolled in glitter or painting by numbers, which is very comforting indeed.