by Lynn on June 20, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs.

Written by David Hare
Directed by Larry Moss
Designed by Debra Hanson
Lighting by Davida Tkach
Sound by Emily Porter
Cast: Tim Dowler-Coltman
Sara Topham
Lindsay G. Merrithew

An obvious vanity production for Lindsay G. Merrithew with a standout performance by Sara Topham of David Hare’s deeply thought play.

The Story. Kyra Hollis is a schoolteacher living in a flat with little heating in London, on the other side of the cityr from her school. She loves it.

She is visited one cold evening by Edward Sergeant, the 18 year old son of Tom Sergeant, a successful business man and Kyra’s former lover. Kyra and Tom had a six year affair while he was married. Kyra worked for Tom in his restaurant business and was considered a member of the family.

Now Edward comes to say that his mother died the year before and his father and he don’t get along. Edward wants Kyra to talk to his father. This is startling news and it does not have the effect that Edward expected and he leaves. A bit later Tom arrives out of the blue.

He’s successful, confident, controlling, bullying, and knows the weaknesses of his opponents. That’s how he has succeeded. He chips away at Kyra, noting her weaknesses and how she would be better off with him. It’s a rocky night and truths are told.

David Hare has created three fully-developed, complex characters each with their secrets and strengths. It’s interesting to note that Kyra has moved on in those three years and Tom seems to have continued on exactly as he was. He brings her a bottle of whiskey, but she doesn’t drink it—he does because that’s his drink.

He appears to be knowledgeable about Kyra, but is he? Or is he merely self-absorbed. It’s so tempting to dismiss Tom as just a self-centred control freak. It’s to the testament of Hare’s writing that we don’t dismiss Tom. Tom has charm and finesse and he’s a character we like to watch.

The Production. Designer Debra Hanson has created Kyra’s well-worn flat with little heat. A floor heater is downstage right in the corner. Kyra is neat. Things are in their place.

Director Larry Moss negotiates his actors around the space with a lot of care. Kyra especially must carry on a conversation and make a spaghetti dinner from scratch. She’s really cooking. You can hear the onions frying and smell the fragrance as it wafts over the audience. I do wonder why she doesn’t use the bulb of garlic on the counter with the other fixings for the spaghetti.

But Larry Moss should spend more effort in helping two of the three actors capture their characters.

As Edward the son, Tim Dowler-Coltman is so agitate and angry for most of the first scene, I think he would do either himself or Kyra damage. That performance has to be taken down considerably and controlled. Edward is not a hot-head but he is an 18 year old teenager with bubbling emotions. It doesn’t mean he is apoplectic.

As Tom, Lindsay G. Merrithew has the confidence and swagger of Tom but not enough depth, nuance or the many layers of the man. I can appreciate that Mr. Merrithew would want to do this part in this play and so formed a company that would produce it. He needs to go deeper to find Tom’s vulnerability. We should see how wounded he is besides his arrogance and I think that’s missing here.

But Sara Topham as Kyra is the saving grace. This is a character who listens; is smart and knows how to hold her ground. She is in the moment. We can see how she would have fallen in love with that whole family and they with her, until the wife found out about the affair and that’s because Tom was deliberately careless. But we also get the sense of how much she has grown since being away from Tom, and we sense that she realizes how destructive that relationship was.

I like the play a lot. Hare writes so deeply about thorny relationships, controlling situations and those that are loving and carrying.

Comment. Skylight is a watershed in the career of David Hare. Pop psychology here.
In 1992 David Hare married the love of his life, Nicole Fahri, the noted fashion designer.

Skylight was published and produced in 1995 and it’s markedly different from his plays before that time because it’s about relationships and human stories. Up till then Hare wrote about issues—war, the judiciary; the banking system; the muck-racking newspaper business. When he married Fahri his plays changed and Skylight is the first to show that change.

Hare did have relationships before then—muses—Canadian Kate Nelligan was one and he dedicated a play to her, (Plenty) that she starred in. Blair Brown was also a muse. But Fahri and Hare have been married for 24 years and that has affected, enlivened, influenced his plays.

Hidden Cove Productions presents:

Plays until July 9, 2016.
Cast: 3; 2 men, 1 woman.
Running Time: 2 hours.

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