Sunday, 26 June 2016

Skylight, June 23, 2016 ***1/2

By David Hare, Melbourne Theatre Company
Southbank Theatre, Sumner, until July 23, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
Review also in Herald Sun in print on Mon June 27, 2016. KH

 Anna Samson, Colin Friels, photo Jeff Busby
 In David Hare’s play, Skylight, the personal collides with the political and the value of public service conflicts with that of business achievement and its resultant ‘wealth creation’.

Skylight is set in London in 1995, but its social commentary is still relevant twenty-one years on, in our 21st century world that is rife with social inequality.

The characters’ opposing attitudes to wealth, work, public duty and personal ambition could be a dinner conversation in 2016.

Kyra Hollis (Anna Samson) fled her comfortable, privileged life as employee and secret lover of Tom Sergeant (Colin Friels), a wealthy, ambitious and married restaurateur.

Now, three years later, Tom arrives at the door of Kyra’s icy, rundown flat in the down-market suburb of Kensal Rise, from which she commutes to her job as a dedicated teacher of difficult kids in a tough school in East Ham.

Since the death of his long-suffering wife a year earlier, Tom has been crippled by grief and guilt, and he seeks solace with his former lover, Kyra, whose life and views are now polar opposites of Tom’s own.

Hare’s intense dialogue is a passionate argument that balances the characters’ opposing attitudes, shifting our allegiances and sympathies in each exchange.

Tom’s arrogance, vanity and self-absorption counter Kyra’s self-righteousness and adamant disapproval of the world of business and finance.

In Dean Bryant’s production, Friels gives a compelling, well-judged and nuanced performance as Tom, plumbing the depths of his needy vulnerability and highlighting Tom’s acerbic, rapid-fire wit as he assassinates the character of his management adviser.

Samson plays Kyra with a nervous energy that is barely masked by her frosty reception of Tom, and Samson is at her best in the rare moments she is still and focused and when Kyra’s tirades about education garner the audience’s sympathy.

However, Samson’s characterisation is not always credible, her jerky and unnatural physicality is often distracting, while the cool reserve with which she plays Kyra belies the intimacy that Tom and Kyra shared in the past and present.

Occurring over a single night, Hare’s masterly play cunningly dissects social and political inequity through Tom and Kyra’s passionate but disintegrating relationship, while their vehement argument about politics reveal the yawning gap that now exists between them.

However, in this production, Tom and Kyra’s relationship lacks that palpable, barely contained passion that should match the political fervour that underlies their communication and drives Hare’s story.

Toby Wallace, as Tom’s 18 year-old son, Edward, provides some genuine warmth, human concern and a strangely objective view of both characters in his two short visits to Kyra’s flat that act as bookends to the conflict between his father and Kyra.

Hare’s Skylight is an impassioned commentary that highlights social inequities through personal pain and political outrage and it is a tribute to his capacity to write drama that challenges an audience to think.

By Kate Herbert 

Director: Dean Bryant

Set & Costume: Dale Ferguson
Lighting: Matt Scott
Sound: Mathew Frank

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