Review: Decadence

This risqué two-hander directed by Rosie Solomon was thoroughly engaging to watch. Steven Berkoff’s play shows snippets into the lives of two couples, played by the same actors multi-roling. One of the couples is the upper class Helen (Katy Owens) and Steve (Joel Heritage) who take delight in hunting and gorging on expensive meals. The other couple is the working class Sybil (Owens) and Les (Heritage) who are plotting to murder Steve. The play is a series of monologues accompanied by exaggerated, stylized physical gestures.

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In an interview with Burn FM’s Culture Vultures, Solomon said ‘the characters don’t show their true selves to the world.’ The set in the Dance Studio was full of mirrors; the mirrored wall was visible, as well as hanging mirrors on the other side, and a full-length mirror on one end of the traverse stage. The make-up was like French mime artists, which created a sort of mask for the characters. The set and make-up linked with this idea of falseness. The audience could see different sides to the actors in the mirrors, but ultimately they were hidden behind their heavy-duty make-up masks.

Owens and Heritage are undoubtedly brave. In one scene, Owens performs oral sex on a banana while standing back to back with Heritage who fakes having an orgasm. This was cleverly staged, as the audience could see the actor with his/her back to them in the mirrors. In another scene, Owens mimed horse riding on Heritage, whipping him, and bouncing up and down while delivering a monologue. This evidently required a lot of stamina. The scene itself was very amusing with Owens exclaiming lines such as ‘hunting is so f**king thrilling!’ and ‘some kid’s pet cat is torn to shreds!’ with a gleeful smile slapped across her face.

Heritage had great physicality. Particularly when acting like demons after having five shots. His movements and facial expressions were really expressive and entertaining. Additionally, in the scene where he eats a ridiculously extravagant meal with what feels like a million courses. After the meal he crawls about the floor and exclaims that he needs to be sick, piss, and sh*t all at once. He then spasms on the floor and shakes out his trouser leg. Despite this all being mimed the audience were still pretty revolted.

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In one scene, Heritage has a racist rant where he shouts racial slurs, which I found the most uncomfortable part to watch. However, it was clearly in place to highlight what a horrendous character Steve was.

The transitions between the working class couple and upper class couple scenes were smooth and seamless. Owens and Heritage had great chemistry. Although, I thought that the characters of Helen and Steve were a lot more developed than those of Sybil and Les. The Sybil and Les storyline was slightly confusing and difficult to follow at points.

Overall, the production was really hilarious; members of the audience were cringing, slapping their knees, and laughing shamelessly. Solomon will be directing an original play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. I look forward to seeing more of her work!

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