Herons at the Lyric Hammersmith review: a soaked stage sets the scene for this brutal play

Steve Hogarty
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Sophia Decaro and Ed Gaughan in the astonishingly moist Herons

Lyric Hammersmith | ★★★★☆

It’s testament to Billy Matthews’ excellent performance in Herons that, just a few minutes into the play, I wanted to clamber up on to the flooded stage and punch his character in the face. He plays Scott, a feral, hateful teen who wages a warped campaign of bullying and wild aggression against reclusive 14-year-old Billy, the son of the man whose testimony put Scott’s brother in prison.

The waterlogged stage at the Lyric lends an extra dimension to the performance, allowing the young cast to splash around with wet kineticism. The animalistic, foot-stomping tantrums of Scott and his barking cronies can leave the first two rows soaked, while calmer scenes between Billy and his father are granted a meditative aspect, as if taking place in a Japanese water garden.

Even in these serene moments, the uneasy ripples can be felt. The sneering antagonists remain onstage throughout, looming over scenes as the inescapable and all-pervasive spectres of bullying. In its moments of sickening violence, Herons can make for uncomfortable watching. You’ll leave wet, angry, or both.