Loft Theatre, Leamington, until February 2
Reviewer: Peter McGarry
Play or debate? Skylight blends both elements in an extraordinary blast of theatrical ingenuity.
David Hare’s drama weaves a complex pattern of politics and passion but at no stage loses its grip on mid-1990s issues of the heart. The debate side covers the fact that in a cast of three there are never more than two on stage at a time. The emotional aspect arises from an intense and sometimes brutal analysis of a long-term relationship seeking revival.
Director Sue Moore has boldly undertaken the challenge of making such a demanding piece come to life in terms of anger, wit and laughter in a dismal London apartment. This is stunningly achieved by two of the most powerful and committed performances to grace a Midlands stage.
Julie-Ann Randell and Mark Crossley breathe unremitting life into the ex-lovers who are temporarily reunited through the older man’s quest to recapture the lost flame with a younger woman. Their situation has become ironically reversed, Tom the capitalist who came up from nothing, Kyra deliberately opting out of a comfortable lifestyle for a slum-like existence.
The remarkable chemistry achieved between the two players brings it all cuttingly into force, earmarking the guilt engendered on both characters by their betrayal of his late wife and the tearing-apart of their latter-day reunion. This is neatly book-ended with appearances by the man’s teenage son, played with sensitivity and subtle changes of mood by Ed Statham.
Politically, the play sounds dated, with Tom’s bullying disbelief of Kyra’s chosen path and her overt anger at the plight of the cash-strapped school where she works and the under-valued roles of teachers and social workers. But it is essentially a period piece, a fact brilliantly accentuated by Richard Moore’s set design with its rundown winter interior and block of flats background.
But all is far from unrelieved gloom. There are funny lines to savour, to say nothing of Ms Randell’s ability to chop vegetables while conversing and preparing a hot meal.
This is intense, commanding theatre at a remarkably high level.