Writer: Simon Stephens
Director: Sean Holmes
Reviewer: Lettie Mckie
The Public Reviews Rating:
Simon Stephen’s play Morning is performed by the Lyric Young Company at their home at the Lyric Hammersmith. The theatre has become well renowned for this youth programme dedicated to providing opportunities for young people to develop their skills within all aspects of theatre. Morning is a collaborative piece, devised through workshops with young actors from the company and their stamp is clearly imprinted on this current and daring production.
The characters inhabit a stark industrial stage, set with a bizarre collection of objects, a tent covered in plastic sheeting, a bright white fridge, a perspex water tank, trailing wires and a sound deck. The play starts with searing harsh flood lights flashing and thumping music blaring out, two girls appear on stage whose casual appearance and easy languor are at odds with the sci-fi style set. This disparity between the young people’s conversations and attitudes and their surroundings is a theme which is developed throughout the play and as the drama unfolds the difference becomes increasingly more pronounced and sinister.
It tells the story of Stephanie (Scarlet Billham) and Alex (Myles Westman) who are living with a mother who is dying of Cancer. Stephanie, the main protagonist, is annoying, self-absorbed and completely deranged. Seriously screwed up her life is unravelling fast with her best friend leaving for university and a growing isolation from all the people around her. She and the best friend Cat (Joana Nastari) lure Stephanie’s boring boyfriend Stephen (Ted Reilly) away to the countryside, an ill-fated trip that starts with a proposed threesome and ends in Stephen’s murder. As Stephanie’s life spirals out of control so does the storyline, with much of the rest of the play a series of episodes highlighting the catastrophic results of this brutal event, where much of the pathos is revealed in the words left unsaid. In a fun twist much of the soundtrack is produced on stage by a character Mikey (Michael Czepiel) who observes the action, occasionally contributing to the conversation. Along with him are two other small parts, the characters Anna (Korein Brown) and Jacob (Karl Queensborough) who have just started going out. The addition of these three normal young people to the group reminds the audience that whilst Stephanie, Alex and Cat’s worlds have crossed an unimaginable boundary, for the others life will go on largely as before.
The Young Actors in this play were all extremely good. They maturely brought a strange and complex piece to life through their ability to create characters whose mannerisms and behaviour were plausibly true to real life. Myles Westman’s Alex was particularly charming and pitiable. A young boy with far too much responsibility on his shoulders he is mercilessly ill-treated by the crazed Stephanie and his struggle to understand his Mother’s death is one of the most memorable moments in the play. He sings a few lines from a haunting pop song which is then played back to the audience using an instant recording. This use of a currently popular song for the boy to express his inexpressible sense of loss was clever and leant real pathos to his situation.
The emotion of this scene was one of the high points where the play’s exploration of the themes of death, childhood, loss of innocence and pain were most clearly expressed. Although Scarlet Billham’s performance was exemplary, her reactions to her murderous actions delightfully sadistic the play built to a disappointing anti-climax and the last scene was fairly dull, with her writing in red pen all over a Perspex sheet to a backdrop of more thumping house music.
Morning was a very interesting play dealing in a contemporary way with the devastating effect of death and suffering on a young person’s life. This was a piece that made you question human nature and revealed how one moment can change your life, and your state of mind, irrevocably, forever.