Morning Wakes Up Teenagers at the Lyric

Writes our theatre critic Liz Vercoe


Performances: 12-15 September and 19-22 September 7.30pm
Age 13+
Tickets £15
Booking: 020 8741 6850

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Theatre in Hammersmith

Hot from the Traverse Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival comes Morning “a play for young people”. It should also add “acted by young people” for here it’s performed by members of the Lyric’s own LYC, Lyric Young Company.

It’s the end of the summer between school and college, and friends are saying their last goodbyes. First we meet two girls, Stephanie who is staying and Cat who is leaving.

Photo: Marc Brenner. L-R: Stephen (Ted Reilly), Cat (Joana Nastari) & Stephanie (Scarlet Billham)

And, in just a few lines of this one-hour play, actresses Scarlet Billham and Joana Nastari also manage to convey that their characters are bored, rebellious and eccentric. Stephanie, all pale bare legs with twisting hands and feet, Cat sleek dark and dangerous. Sophisticated Cat wants to go, to escape. Strange Stephanie doesn’t want her to. Cue hesitant audience laughter.

It’s always a poignant time and one that leavSeptember 12, 2012forgotten is that feeling of autumn’s arrival cutting apart teenage life as we’ve known it. But in the hands of writer Simon Stephens this will be no ordinary end-of-summer parting. He is, after all, the writer of powerful Punk Rock , previously performed at the Lyric, an everyday tale of school life...until one pupil starts to massacre the others.

And once again murderously dark deeds are soon afoot. Or are they?

There is not a minute of this play that does not keep you guessing and puzzling. Aided and abetted by the stark and surreal set – a glass aquarium one third full with water; an opaque plastic tent; a giant fridge, strobe and neon lights – and a character who sits at a computer with his back to the audience seemingly controlling the music. Until, humorously and yet alarmingly, he joins in the dialogue.

Photo: Marc Brenner. L-R: Stephen (Ted Reilly) & Stephanie (Scarlet Billham)

By developing plays with young people, the Lyric’s artistic director Sean Holmes is able to capture what goes through teenage minds and give voice to those thoughts however scary and unpalatable they may be. Here a mother dies of cancer but it’s not a sanitised death where people say the right thing. Stephanie, with her total lack of emotional empathy, is able to say the raw brutal truth.

The play also toys with the idea that we all “act” when under stress. So what is real? This helps out experienced theatre goers, but young teens might just take it all literally which could be a bit grim.

Impressive performances also come from Ted Reilly as Stephen, Stephanie’s boyfriend and Myles Westman as her younger brother Alex.

Ted’s Stephen is a decent, sensible young man being drawn like a moth to Stephanie’s increasingly wild, and to him exciting, demands. He has strength and some confidence but is still too young for them to fully protect him. His confusion and false bravado when the two girls start to play cat and mouse with him is beautifully portrayed.

Photo: Marc Brenner. L-R: Stephanie (Scarlet Billham) & Alex (Myles Westman)

And the whole play would be deeply depressing if it wasn’t for the character of Alex. At 15 he’s two years younger than the rest he still has enough childish hope, optimism and belief in order for a decent life for the audience to walk away without total despair.

In such a short play we don’t get to find out why Stephanie and Cat are the way they are. Stephanie’s damage is far too great for what we hear of her life. But this theatre experience is still worth the trip.

September 11, 2012