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A CurtainUp London Review
Scarlet Billham, who plays the main protagonist Stephanie, has on her list of credits a play called Identity Crisis at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, a play based on Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock which was about a high school massacre. The theme of Morning is also about inexplicable killing by those barely out of childhood reminding us of Mary Bell or even the Jamie Bulger case where the murderers are themselves children.
Stephanie’s mother is dying of cancer and her best friend Cat (Joana Nastari) is leaving her behind as Cat leaves for university. Stephanie lures her boyfriend Stephen (Ted Reilly) to the woods promising sex with both her and Cat and a fantasy game becomes violent and inexplicably unpleasant as they start to hurt Stephen and Stephanie kills him. Stephanie goes through the motions of calling at Stephen’s house to ask how he is, acting out what she might have done if she were unconnected with the murder.
Sean Holmes as director allows Scarlet Billham to dominate in a very self conscious, to the point of being stylised, performance which compounds the feeling of fantasy and unreality. The set is like a rehearsal room with the sound designer onstage. This play is not for my generation but for young performers and a young audience who can identify with the nihilistic message, which by the way is not a message if we are to believe Stephanie’s final speech. She tells us that everything is shit and that “everybody wants a message and there is none.” Like much of devised theatre it is in the play making, the excitement of joining in that is the journey rather than in the finished product.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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