Belonging to a family of “loud, intense people” makes for a lot of anecdotes in the life of young Stephanie, a twenty-something who doesn’t appear quite ready for the ‘partner, children and mortgage’ lifestyle that, come the end of the play, might still end up being the future for this rather charismatic character. There is no set – by ‘no set’ I mean ‘no set’; neither chair nor table, neither door nor window – and this production is therefore entirely reliant on the strength (or otherwise) of the script and its delivery.
This confidence is made somewhat ironic by the moderately self-deprecating nature of Stephanie (Elaine Fellows). I say ‘moderately’ – she puts herself down but not to the point of melancholy. Despite the steady pace (it’s unhurried but never sluggish) it’s rather frenetic in terms of structure, flitting between childhood memories and adult experiences, and even these are not easily categorised. At points in her childhood, Stephanie was rather philosophical, pondering on questions about the afterlife, amongst other things; more recent trains of thought are comparatively run-of-the-mill.
There’s much to be enjoyed in the sort of questions she asks, not only about and of herself, but of her family, friends and acquaintances, and by extension – this being a one-woman performance with an excellent rapport established with the audience – those of us sat in the theatre. Why indeed do people spend their teenage years longing for the day when they no longer have to rely on lifts from parents or standing around waiting for the bus, only to later use their car just for commuting and grocery shopping?
Fellows is a consummate storyteller, and a highly likeable one at that, going into some detail about certain events in Stephanie’s life that I couldn’t help but wonder, at least momentarily, whether this play is partly or even wholly autobiographical. It’s sometimes crude, and occasionally shockingly so, but it’s always so credible. Every single titbit could feasibly have taken place in the real world. Perhaps it is the sheer number of real world references that reinforce this.
“We’re impatient,” Stephanie muses. “It’s hard to wait for things.” That’s so true. We have instant coffee, fast food, high speed railways, shows without an interval (ahem). This show lasts just 45 minutes and ends on a high note but nonetheless it ends abruptly. While there was a sense of completeness in this play, I would have liked to have heard a little more about Stephanie’s own opinions, in addition to the existing regurgitations of what her mother advised her years ago. The themes brought out call to mind the poem ‘Leisure’ by WH Davies, which begins with the lines, “What is this life if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.”
This is, all in all, a witty and positively cheerful production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Decibels follows the story of Stephanie. Stephanie doesn’t make plans. Which is probably why at 24 she finds herself back at home with her mum, single and unable to fit into her jeans. Without really knowing why, Steph takes us through what she feels are the most significant parts of her life so far. Could reliving the bad dates, moaning housemates and awkward waxes give her the answers as to why she’s ended up where she is? Or is the problem actually closer to home? Written and performed by Elaine Fellows, this piece is for anyone that has ever took a step back from their life and thought “what the hell am I doing?” Directed by Jesse Michael Angelo and produced by ‘Scripts and Giggles’.
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Decibels at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, 27th, 28th Feb and 1st, 2nd of March 2017. Winner of the Michael Bryant Award 2015, National Theatre