Culture critic Ruth Horsburgh enjoys a truly spectacular Christmas treat at the Birmingham Symphony Hall.Written by Ruth Horsburgh on 31st December 2017
REVIEW: Skylight at the Crescent Theatre
Culture Critic Ruth Horsburgh reviews the Crescent Theatre's production of David Hare's Skylight, a play about love and loss
David Hare’s Skylight was first written and performed over twenty years ago in 1995. In 2015 it was revived in a critically acclaimed production starring Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy. So it was with a sense of anticipation, and slight trepidation, that I came to the intimate setting of the amateur theatre group, performing in the Studio at The Crescent Theatre. I need not have worried. As a founding member of the Little Theatre Guild which supports amateur theatre across the country, The Crescent demonstrates, as was clear from this production, how powerful and ‘professional’ amateur dramatics can be.
Hare himself has described this play as a ‘full bloodedly romantic play’, yet the play’s story is far from a straightforward romance. Politics and passion share centre stage. Tom and Kyra had enjoyed an affair for six years. Yet when Tom’s wife, Alice, found out, Kyra had ended the relationship and, almost as a form of penance, taken a job at a tough school. The play starts three years later, following Alice’s death from cancer. Tom tries to rekindle his relationship with Kyra, but this opens up painful old wounds in the process. Their strained relationship is heightened by the claustrophobic setting of Kyra’s small council flat. The shabby furniture and cluttered flat shows just how far apart this hassled teacher and wealthy businessman have become, especially when we see Tom’s disdain at having to help prepare dinner in such dismal surroundings.
“A raw and honest portrayal of a love story of opposites
This is a raw and honest portrayal of a love story of opposites. Kyra and Tom share memories of a real and reciprocated passion, but find themselves driven apart by income and attitude. Kyra is a liberal-minded, hardworking teacher who comes from a secure family but chooses to live in a small, run-down flat. Outwardly, Tom is an affluent and seemingly robust restaurant owner and businessman. He approaches his personal life in the same way he does his profession: using persuasive arguments, deployed with a stern façade. Could the audience sympathise with this angry and rather selfish man? With Graeme Braidwood’s excellent performance, including his tirades of grief and rage, we could. He ensured we saw the fragility of an emotionally damaged middle-aged man, and were even able to empathise with him.
Alice Kennedy (herself an alumnus of UoB), gave an assured performance as Kyra, in which she particularly took hold of the second act, and enabled the audience to share the conflict she felt in leaving behind a man she had truly loved. Her socially conscious monologues went down well with the audience, particularly her rousing defence of teachers. Her ability to prepare food and drink whilst delivering demanding speeches was also very impressive, and made the audience feel even more immersed in the play. Kennedy and Braidwood had a real rapport as they swept through the fast-paced and sharp script, in both poignant heart-felt moments as well as explosive arguments. They were ably supported by Jacob Williams who played Tom’s son, Edward Sergeant. Williams’ likeable rendering of Edward gave the play some lightness.
“Skylight does not shy away from big issues such as fidelity, death, grief, forgiveness, class struggles and indeed, love...
Skylight does not shy away from big issues such as fidelity, death, grief, forgiveness, class struggles and indeed, love. No matter how much Kyra and Tom argue and want to find a way forward, a solution to their shared pain and desires is just out of reach. The director, Mark Payne, has cleverly recognised that for this play, less is more. Therefore, the lighting and sound effects were simple, but effective. There was a beautiful moment after the explosive evening, with words and even cutlery flying around the stage, when daylight poured through the window. This created a moment to pause and consider what was potentially ahead for these characters, and whether their parting was indeed the right decision.
Although this play is over twenty years old, its intertwining of politics and passion is still deeply moving, and its portrayal of opposing values remains as pertinent as ever in our polarised society.
I would recommend looking out for future productions at the Crescent Theatre. Click here for more information.