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This review is from 'Morning's run at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, during the Edinburgh Fringe
Anyone expecting Simon Stephens's ambiguously described 'play for young people' to be a kinder, cosier affair than his usual work would be way off the mark. 'There is no hope. There is only terror,' observes youthful protagonist Stephanie, at the end of a production that is most certainly not for children (the 14+ age advice is there for a reason).
A brutally hilarious tale of teenage frustration, 'Morning' covers relatively familiar emotional and linguistic territory for Stephens. But this production from Lyric boss Sean Holmes is simply staggering, with a Lyric Young Company cast that contains at least one bona fide future star in the form of Scarlet Billham.
She plays Stephanie, a 17-year-old girl suspended somewhere between boredom and psychosis as she stalks the nocturnal London of Holmes's stage – bare save a fishtank at one end and a glowing plastic shed at the other – like a caged panther. When we first meet her she is pathetically trying to ingratiate herself to soon-to-leave town best friend Cat (a brilliantly withering Joana Nastari).
But Stephanie is not simply pathetic: she is fearsome too, terrorising her boyfriend Stephen (Ted Reilly) and brother Alex (Myles Westman) with queenly scorn and murderous conviction. In its bombastic, stylised way, this production absolutely nails the queasily irrational shifts in power that define teenage hierarchies.
About halfway through there is an incredible scene in which Stephanie watches her idol Cat and her object of contempt Stephen talk to each other: Billham's predatory eyes flash with an astonishing conflict conflict of desire and hatred, paralysed by the contrary feelings until she suddenly does something terrible.
'Morning' is the agony and the ecstasy of teenhood exploded into a living nightmare by Stephens and Holmes, whose production swoons by like an hour-long fever, a reel of scenes that collapse and dissolve into one another to the sound of deafening techno and unsettling ambient hums.
'Morning' is completely ridiculous and utterly terrifying at the same time, like one of Holmes's masterful comedies with Filter gone over to the dark side. It's more stylishly visceral than actively profound, but its impact is ferocious.