Herons at the Lyric Hammersmith
This is a dark look at how far the human spirit can be pushed. It follows Billy, played by Max Gill, as he is tormented by bullies at school and traumatised by his equally dysfunctional family life. He is essentially parenting himself, as well as his unemployed, fishing-obsessed father and his ex-alcoholic mother. With all this pressure upon his shoulders, it is only a matter of time until he snaps.
As part of the Lyric’s ethos of engaging young actors, the piece was organically nurtured by the cast. Ed Gaughan as Dad and Sophie Stone as Mum both play comedic parental figures tinged with sadness, too caught up in their own issues to understand how they are affecting their son.
The young cast are all brilliant, and the knowledge that they helped create their characters makes them even more interesting. At the most violent moment, the audience are left haunted by Billy’s guttural screams, as well as Scott’s demented tears. Billy Matthew as an unhinged Scott is a triumph, played as not simply a one-dimensional bully, but as a genuinely unstable young man capable of anything. He veers dramatically between sadistic and apologetic, throwing hysterical tantrums in between.
The rest of the cast each carve out their own niche, with Sophia Decaro’s Adele offering some comfort, though restricted when the bullies turn on her. Moses and Aaron, played by Moses Adejimi and Ella Mcloughlin, are not mere henchmen, but equally vicious in their actions. Their physicality and movement contribute an integral part, ramping up their childishness or becoming increasingly menacing.
Audience members in the front few rows will get wet: the stage is set to represent a lake where the troubled youth splash about or violently dominate one another. Levels are played with on-stage, creating the feel of a rusty old playground and emphasising just how young these characters really are – yet they are forced to engage in a grown-up world for which they are not emotionally prepared.
Herons is on at Lyric Hammersmith from 15th January until 13th February 2016, for further information or to book visit here.