REVIEW: HERONS (Lyric Hammersmith)

‘Herons’ is a rather disturbing play, which follows 14 year old Billy as he is tormented by local bullies and pushed to the brink of extreme violence. His tormentors are a small gang led by the malicious and hateful Scott. Scotts older, and seemingly nastier, brother has landed himself in jail – and he has been helped on his way there by an eye witness to his abominable crime, who also happens to be Billy’s dad. Suffice it to say, Scott is none too happy with Billy or his father.

Billy, played well by Max Gill, is a clever and loveable character – almost heroic in some ways. But for me, the show was carried by Billy Matthews, playing Scott. Billy Matthews portrayed adolescent evil superbly, leaving the audience feeling uncomfortable at the brutal reality of how quickly children can grow up and turn into something menacing. At the same time though, Billy Matthews showed that underneath everything, Scott is just a coward and less than that, a lost boy. He depicts this particularly well near the end of this one Act play, where he assaults his victim so grotesquely that even he is horrified and traumatised by his own actions.

Whilst I think there were a lot of abstract ideas going on in this production (which I was not too fussed about), I did quite like the adventurous set. ‘Herons’ is mostly set by – and often in – a fishing lake. As such, the Lyric chose to have a stage covered in water, as well as several jets pouring more water onto the scene at crucial moments. It certainly added to the drama when the characters began thrashing around in the water, holding Billy down and getting completely soaked. Fortunately, I was just far back enough in the stalls to avoid the splashes, but there were a few audience members at the front who got up and moved because they eventually got sick of getting wet. Perhaps someone forgot to tell them they might need an umbrella in the auditorium?

I enjoyed a lot of this play – particularly the scenes between Billy and his tough but humerous father. However, I didn’t really enjoy the scenes with Billy’s mother. Whilst Sophie Stone acted the part beautifully, I found their relationship boring and I didn’t feel it really added to the play as a whole. I would’ve preferred to have seen more of Billy’s relationship with his dad and felt that could’ve been developed further.

I found the ending a little anti-climatic and I wasn’t sure I took away anything new from this production. Overall though, fantastic set design and a great taster of some up and coming young talent!

Reviewed by Rachel Callaghan (@WIAAProductions)
Photo: Tristram Kenton

Herons is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith until 13 February 2016. Book tickets here