Having written a number of flamboyant, large scale dramas about the state of the nation’s major institutions, in 1995 David Hare consulted his microscope and produced ‘Skylight’ in which he scrutinised the big issues facing British society through the lens of a single relationship. His social survey dwells on the gulf between the haves and have-nots, the crassness of the media, the plight of beleaguered social workers, and the predicament of hard pressed teachers in struggling schools.
All this he neatly achieves through the simple device of bringing two former lovers together for one last night of reconciliation and recrimination. It’s a real- time story played out in her ramshackle, run down East Ham apartment which, in James Perkins design, sits uncomfortably atop an edgy urban plaza of upturned cavity wall bricks; all as hollowed out as the lovers.
Restaurant owner Tom and Kyra split up three years ago after a long, illicit affair under the nose of Tom’s wife. She has now succumbed to cancer, leaving Tom with the house, the business, and the grief. In his loneliness, he’s also wondering if he might take up with Kyra once more. But Kyra has moved on. She’s forsaken catering and is finding a new satisfaction in education. In the wide-ranging, night-long dialogue about caring and class, we gradually work out who left who and why.
What Hare’s play needs is smouldering tension and Tamara Harvey’s production is more head than heart. There is talk of the power of the relationship they shared…but the lasting impression is that their affair was just a commodity.
Jeany Spark is supercool as Kyra; so her interval invitation to Tom to send his driver away and stay the night comes out of the blue rather. Jay Villiers ‘Tom’ is undercooked. He’s correctly played as being ‘emotionally unavailable’ and his materialistic arrogance is clear enough. But there’s a whole other layer of his personality that Kyra must have once seen … but we don’t.
In short, the sexual chemistry between them is incomplete. They are like chalk and cheese; the teacher brittle and scratchy; the restaurateur greasy and past his sell by date. We get the politics of the play without the passion.
Their scenes together are book-ended by the energising appearances of Oscar Batterham as Tom’s teenage son. He arrives at Kyra’s flat doing a very good impression of a restless 18-year-old who is desperate to make a difference but doesn’t know how too. And in a beautiful epilogue, he really does make a difference by performing the play’s one act of unconditional kindness.
As ever, Hare is insightful and incisive in his analysis of the society around him. He perfectly pinpoints with astute wit and wisdom what we already know to be wrong in this world. So, it’s both an outwardly illuminating and inwardly satisfying piece of theatre.
Photo : Mark Carline
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