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Published January 22, 2016

What’s it all about?

Fear. That gnawing knot in your stomach, sick in your gullet, freezing anxiety in your veins kind of fear.

15 years after Simon Stephens’ haunting play premiered, the Olivier Award-winning playwright’s tale of bullying and vengeance is as cutting and bleak a look at society today as it was then.

This week’s cold snap may be lifting today in place of milder weather, but it’s going to remain icy at the Lyric Hammersmith for the rest of Herons’ run.

Who’s in it?

Following its huge success with last year’s stomping revival of Bugsy Malone, the Lyric Hammersmith has collected an equally talented company of young people for this harrowing study of psychological abuse coming from the mouths of babes.

Leading the way is former Fat Sam Max Gill as Billy, a lost boy dealing with both the separation of his family and the repercussions of his father having witnessed school ‘mate’ Scott’s brother committing a heinous crime. Gill is heartbreakingly good; vulnerable yet oddly untouched and naïve about the taunting and terrorising coming his way from Billy Matthews’ terrifying, sociopathic Scott.

It’s another Bugsy star that really stands out however, as Sophia Decaro brings the same disconcertingly confident and beyond-her-years-knowing edge she did to Tallulah to play Billy’s unexpected ally Adele. Remember the name, we predict Decaro is going to go far.

What should I look out for?

Hyemi Shin’s set that sees water flood the stage and videos of primates played on loop on screens behind the actors. It might sound odd but as the company turn in unison to watch one particular scene of a group of apes attempting to drown two of the weakest in the pack, I defy your blood not to run cold as you feel the terror of how far the bullies might just go.

Who was in the press night crowd?

We spotted Lyric Hammersmith supporter and Spiderman star Andrew Garfield in the audience, as well as London stage regular Robert Lindsay.

In a nutshell?

Simon Stephens’ harrowing study on bullying is brutal, terrifying and oddly beautiful.

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

Simon Stephens tweeted earlier this week that an audience member had shouted “sicko” at the curtain call of a performance and that he couldn’t be more proud. That should give you a clue. This isn’t theatre that’s going to leave you feeling warm and entertained; it is theatre that’s going to leave you feeling itchy under your skin, uncomfortable, on edge and, yes, entertained. If you’re with us in thinking that can be a very good thing, then yes, you will.

Herons is playing until 13 February. You can book tickets through the Lyric Hammersmith website.

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