Sunday, 10 August 2014

'Skylight' at Wyndham's Theatre

Yesterday Chris took me to see David Hare's 'Skylight' at Wyndham's, a theatre I've been in lots of times and will always make me smile with memories of 'Avenue Q' from years ago and those rascally and wise Bad Idea Bears. Anyway, back to 2014 and Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy being fraught and tense and funny in an ugly little flat in a sink estate in Kensall Rise in north west London on a freezing December night in the early '90s.

The flat belongs to Kyra and it has the cheapest and most awful furniture I've seen in a long time, spindly and formica, with a two-bar electric heater for warmth. Kyra lives in four small rooms and overlooks more flats outside her front door, layers and layers of flats, some with football flags in the windows instead of curtains. The whole place reeks of deprivation and, in her case, cheap because she could afford better if she wanted. Kyra is a teacher who chooses to live in a deprived neighbourhood in north west London and teach in a  deprived neighbourhood in east London meaning she spends most of her time commuting to school and then home again. By bus, of course. You see, Kyra has a social conscience. Or does she?

The story gradually unfolds, firstly through a random visit by Edward, the son of her former lover. And then by Tom her lover, millionaire restauranteur, who hasn't seen her for several years. She was taken in by Tom and his wife when she first came to London to work before going to university. On return she and Tom had an affair for six years before Tom's wife found out about it and Kyra vanished. Tom's wife died from cancer a year ago and he's finally tracked her down. What was it all about back then and what's it about now? That's the tale we're told in the freezing little flat with snow outside.

The cast were all great, all three of them! Bill Nighy was Tom, the self-centred successful businessman, a role he played 20 years ago when the play was first produced. Carey Mulligan was excellent as Kyra, controlled and in control of her life, with Matthew Beard as Tom's son, Edward, aged 18 in the play who has just left home after a blazing row with his father. Bill's rather mannered portrayal of Tom, endlessly pacing, endlessly challenging Kyra's life and decisions, was great to see with his comic timing and emphasising words in the text to create the next argument between them. And Carey's control and stillness at the centre of the maelstrom of passions, always pushing Tom to think, challenging his assumptions and one-sided view of their years together. And Matthew as Edward, particularly in the final scene bringing breakfast when he seemed to blossom into the character. I thought they were all excellent.

The set and lighting were also really good and I particularly liked how the windows in the block of flats outside the front door changed to reflect the time. And, of course, the play used smellovision to great effect. During the first half Kyra makes spag bol - and she really cooks it, chopping up veggies for the sauce and the smell of frying onion reached us up in the balcony. The cooker on stage in the ugly flat really worked and helped to warm up the flat but it was the smell of onions that made me hungry. This is, I'm sure, the first time I've blogged about the smell of a play!

I thoroughly enjoyed the play, from Bill's manic political and social rants and Carey's stillness. Some of the play has aged, like the references to rap music and the Poll Tax, but most of it is still relevant today. But the flat, please, do something about it - I don't remember the early '90s being that grim!

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