Decibels

Mon 13th – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Lauren James

at 07:29 on 22nd Aug 2018

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‘Decibels’, a dynamic yet moving one-woman show, is a must see at the Fringe. From the outset, Elaine Fellows’ Stephanie is funny, likeable and honest with the result being that the audience feels like an old friend on whom she is unburdening. Whilst the script’s humour is intelligently sharp in itself, it is Fellows’ impeccable timing and infectious smile that are at the heart of the piece’s brilliance.

The performance begins with Stephanie listening to a voicemail from her mother, anxious to catch up since her daughter’s move to London. Ignoring it, Stephanie launches into a hilarious summary of her life, spanning awkward first dates, the challenges of female grooming and lessons gleaned from Pixar animations.

From start to finish, the production is slick. Stephanie’s radio not only breaks up her recounting episodes but also provides opportunity for audience participation - difficult to avoid when the soundtrack includes Destiny’s Child. Fellows herself is dynamic and engaging, highlighted best in her re-enactment of a musical theatre audition in leotard and tights.

Humour aside, however, ‘Decibels’ does not shy away from tackling insecurity, unfulfilment and death. Stephanie’s astute observation that, these days, ‘sticking a dog filter’ on a photo is sufficient to keep up the pretence of having a good time appeals to the millennials in the audience. She goes on to admit that despite the women in her family struggling with hereditary verbal diarrhoea, she never tells her mother how she actually feels. This vulnerability is felt most acutely when she recounts the death of her father, reading a letter from her mother. It is this sudden shift in tone and tempo which encapsulates the quality of ‘Decibels’; one moment we are laughing alongside Stephanie before being on the verge of tears.

Refreshingly, despite Stephanie being a twenty-something female who has gone off ‘super noodles, vodka and men’, the snapshots which she details are relatable to all, particularly given that their undertones are rooted in her overriding sense of loneliness and loss of direction. We all recognise Stephanie in ourselves and for this reason, ‘Decibels’ is not to be missed.

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Tara Snelling

at 09:45 on 22nd Aug 2018

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‘Decibels’ opens with a voicemail – the voice of a perky mother ‘just checking in’ – easy, breezy, considerate. However, Stephanie immediately objects to this innocent-sounding message. A twentysomething and all alone in a lonely new city, accompanied only by box-sets and Pixar films, this call prompts a series of recollections about her childhood, to try to make sense of the daunting present.

This show deals with the unplaceable ‘wrongness’: the knowledge that there is forever that irritating ‘something missing’. Throughout the show, the tiniest, throwaway lines stick with me – it’s a testament to the honesty of the writing that nothing ever rings false. This show is particularly heartbreaking in its description of one of the ultimate reasons for the ‘something missing’ - the allure of feeling grown up versus the disappointment of being grown up. Drifting millennials will be all too familiar with Stephanie’s wry comments that post-graduate life is not all we hoped it might be - the idea of waiting for a “real life”, before you realise it’s already been unfolding.

Elaine Fellows is superb, rattling off an immense monologue fluently and fluidly, without so much as a stumble or stutter. She is instantly loveable, particularly when she berates the audience for not reacting appropriately enough, or encouraging other reactions. Every recollection is a fully committed event, and the stage is transformed with objects in her room to re-enact her highs and lows. Fellows masterfully switches into the roles of other characters she relates, adopting new personas effortlessly and in a way that very much suits Stephanie’s fervour for storytelling. She also amusingly takes us through the difficulty of 21st century dating - “you don’t have to have sex but have to be prepared to have sex” - and her anecdote about the outright horrors of a bikini wax is very amusing

The segue between the reality of the show and her intended audience is excitingly blurred. It is a strange feeling after a particularly personal monologue to be jolted back by Stephanie, with a reminder that you are a strange spectator in her bedroom rather than best friend.

With a moving ending, 'Decibels' is a fun but thoughtful watch. Get yourself a ticket if you are looking to plunge even deeper into your existential post-uni life crisis, or maybe to find out you’re not as alone as you think you must be.

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