by Simon Stephens.
Lyric Theatre Lyric Square King Street W6 0QL To 22 September 2012.
Runs: 55min No interval.
TICKETS 020 8741 6850.
Review: Carole Woddis 7 September.
Modern young despair.
From the writer who gave us Punk Rock (amongst other things) comes Simon Stephens’ latest terrifying postcard from the edge. Two friends are parting, one to go to university, the other to hang about. And, it transpires, cause terrible trouble.
Devised by young people from Hammersmith and Basel with the Lyric’s Young Company, Basel’s Junges Theater, Lyric artistic director Sean Holmes and writer Simon Stephens, it gives a portrait of raw amorality but brought together by a marriage of the young with seasoned professional talents.
Bearing a kind of European modernism we’re used to seeing from totemic German directors such as Thomas Ostermeier Hedda Gabler, Barbican, 2008), Holmes’s Lyric stage is a stark, inhospitable wasteland, backed by a metallic soundscape provided by an onstage musician and a style of naturalistic playing that pays only nodding acknowledgement to pretence.
Once again, we are very much in the land of young female psychosis. I say once again, because Scarlet Billham’s Stephanie is not an unfamiliar protagonist these days: childlike finger-twitching and without moral compass. She’s the kind of girl who would happily, you feel, tear the wings off butterflies.
From whence comes this emotional disturbance? It seems boredom, jealousy and a crush on best friend Cat, shortly off to university.
What ensues is 55 minutes of horrifying desultory cruelty only ultimately explained in the dying moments by the nihilism of Stephanie’s final speech – a vision of utter dystopian despair. “There is no future…there is waste everywhere…we could take to the streets but it won’t change anything…we could smash in shop windows, we could repair all shop windows…None of it will change anything. There is only terror. There is no hope.”
Is this the true crux of the matter? An apprehension and perception of the world by the young so pessimistic it makes any semblance of civilised behaviour meaningless?
Holmes hides the worst aspects of the violence through simulated action and gains extraordinary performances from the Lyric Young Company cast, Billham’s Stephanie being a particularly disturbing account.
It’s a difficult encounter but one which contains important lesions we should learn for the future.
Stephanie: Scarlet Billham.
Anna: Korein Brown.
Mikey: Michale Czepiel.
Cat: Joana Nastari.
Jacob: Karl Queensborough.
Stephen: Ted Reilly.
Alex: Myles Westman.
Director: Sean Holmes.
Designer: Hyemi Shin.
Sound: Nick Manning.
Music: Michael Czepiel.
Associate director: Ashley Scott-Layton.
First performance of Morning at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 1 August 2012; first performance at the Lyric Hammersmith 5 September 2012.
In January 2013, it will be presented in Basel at the Junges Theater, directed by Sebastian Nübling, who has also directed Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock.