Sparks fly, passions run deep, and the clash of elitism and classism make the revival of playwright David Hare’s Skylight scintillating theater.
Kyra Hollis (Carey Mulligan), living in a seedy, urban-centered apartment complex, has a surprise visitor one night with the appearance of Edward Sergeant, a young man who’s family she use to live with. Edward tells her his mother died a year earlier and his dad, sullen, unable to articulate his feelings to his son, misses Kyra. Exit the teenager and later that night the father, Tom Sergeant (Bill Nighy), arrives at the small, cramped apartment. A number of years previous, when she first arrived in London as a teenager, Kyra began working for his restaurant empire. She also lived with his family, becoming very close to them, especially Tom, which led to a six-year affair while under his roof. After the tryst was finally exposed Kyra suddenly left the cozy confines of luxury to become a teacher in the battle-scarred public education setting. She also broke off all contact with Tom. Until this night.
Playwright David Hare has crafted a thought-provoking show where business values expressively espoused by Tom Sergeant are met with by Kyra’s equally forceful defense of her work with the underprivileged. Their dueling arguments are animated, persuasive, and highly volatile. Yet for all the rancor and contempt the underlying theme is of heartbreak and love. The older, world-weary businessman, now free from the shackles of an unsatisfying marriage, trying to rekindle an old romance with a much younger, but now more mature woman. She, too, feels both the pangs of the past and the pull of a new future.
Bill Nighy as Tom is an upper class snob and proud of it. He can be charming, loving, and a real scoundrel. When agitated Nighy’s uncontrollable rage pierces through the silence of the theater. At times he appears like a caged tiger, prowling the stage, ready to pounce. His body language and facial ticks only amplify the emotional depths he brings to the role. Carey Mulligan as Krya is more then a match for her former lover. Mulligan is less demonstrative, most of the time, in the verbal sparring that takes place. But the passion of her beliefs, her principles and her feelings can be just as unrestrained as that of her co-star’s histrionics. In the short time that Matthew Beard, as Edward, is on stage he convincingly conveys a young man trying to come to terms with both his unapologetic father and his anguished steps into adulthood.
Director Stephen Daldry has very little space to work with on the cluttered stage. He focuses on the small, seemingly inconsequential, movements of the two actors. A drawn out sequence of cooking what looks to be a delectable pasta dinner is one of his directorial flourishes. Also, because the verbal jousting is so prominent there is not a whole lot the director can do with the actors as they skulk about their half of the apartment setting.
The set, designed by Bob Crowley, realistically gives us a picture of life in a gritty apartment building. It’s not just Kyra’s confined living conditions, but the façade of the complex we can see through her windows.
Skylight, a clash of beliefs and ideologies surrounded by love and bitterness.