A Priori Projects @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
9:00pm, Sat 1 Mar 2014
There’s a bit of a history behind Decadence and myself: it was, to the best of my knowledge, the first Adelaide Fringe show I ever attended. Alison Whyte and Rhys Muldoon performed Berkoff’s play at the Arts Theatre in 1996, and I – as a Frontline fan who lusted after the powerful Emma Ward character – felt compelled to attend with a couple of like-minded friends (who subsequently created an accidental front-row fracas).
I’ll never forget Whyte riding Muldoon like a horse, whipping him into a shared frenzy.
So – that was a magical (and significant) moment in my Fringe-going life, and – as a mark of respect – I felt duty-bound to see this performance, despite any concerns that it may not live up to the memory.
But Berkoff’s source material is a strong basis for any performance. Scenes switch between two couples: a working-class husband and his socialite lover, and his socially aspirational wife and the private investigator she’s hired to follow him. Much of the dialogue is dialogue delivered in rhyme – the lower-class slang of the PI being particularly well-suited, though the mutton-dressed-as-lamb speech of the wife is also beautifully formed – and is plump with profanity and filth.
And, as mired as the script is in the class warfare of Thatcherite Britain, Decadence is funny… and performers Katherine Shearer and Rowan McDonald revel in it. Whilst McDonald’s accents felt a little iffy at the top of the play, he warmed into the two roles nicely… and Shearer was absolutely divine throughout, with both her characters consistently displaying their own physical and vocal quirks. Direction was effective, but without any real flair; there’s no real need with this piece, though, since it’s very much carried by the dialogue.
Whilst the horse-and-rider episode didn’t quite elicit the same degree of excitement as when Ms Whyte gyrated wildly, I still really enjoyed A Priori’s production of Decadence: it nailed the tone of the sharp satire inherent in the script, and delivered two (four?) fine performances. Mix in a bit of political snark, a lot of crude language, and some not-so-subtle innuendo, and I was pretty bloody happy. And, considering the personal niggles and strife that were unfolding outside the theatre walls, that was just what I needed on this evening.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 1, 2014