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.
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2.3 / 5
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This was dreadful. I felt a little sorry for the clearly quite talented young cast being given their chance in such an awfully written and conceptualised play. As a London school teacher, I don't recognise this description of a violent youth - the one peddled by the press - they are as despairing, frustrated, agonised and hopeful as any other generation was or is. And, the claim to the words on Marx's tomb at the end ("The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change it") made me wince. I went to this on the basis of its 5 star time out review. I won't put such trust in time out reviews again.
It is a searing play, dark and dystopic. A simple plot opens up the frightening world of Stephanie, which transcends her particular and peculiar socio and psycho pathologies. Her impotency, her rage, her hopelessness is a sign of her generation, the gift bequeathed us by the dissolution of ideals and societal institutions. I disagree with comments made by others about the acting, which I found to be absolutely first rate, especially the lead, Scarlett Billham. Audience goers expecting a neat, hopeful entertainment about youth today, are better off staying home and watching tv.
Really disappointing. Went to see based on the 5 star review and it failed on almost every front. The acting was wooden with the exception of Cat, and the plot was incredibly limp. It may be my age and that of the vast majority of the audience, but I fear it alienated everyone..... the applause at the end was even limper than the plot.