There's really nothing I love more than the prospect of a weekend when I know I'll be going to the theatre. It seems to put a spring in my step the whole week leading up to it. Last Saturday I saw one of the very first preview performances of Skylight at the Wyndham's Theatre. Let me just start off by saying that it turned out to be my favourite out of all the plays I have ever seen in my lifetime. I'll admit I was initially drawn to this production when I heard that Carey Mulligan was going to be making her West End debut stepping into the lead role. I've always loved her work in film and with Bill Nighy acting opposite her, you know there must be something special about a play when actors of their calibre choose to do it. The plot is described: "On a bitterly cold London evening, schoolteacher Kyra Hollis receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, Tom Sergeant, a successful and charismatic restaurateur whose wife has recently died. As the evening progresses, the two attempt to rekindle their once passionate relationship only to find themselves locked in a dangerous battle of opposing ideologies and mutual desires."
When I enter a theatre, the first thing I instinctively look to is the stage and how it is set. It will hopefully give me an idea of the context of the opening scene. Well I must admit the stage for Skylight struck me by seeming very 'ordinary'. It was the inside of a rather dingy apartment, a small kitchen on the right, a table and a few chairs to the left. After over 15 minutes of staring at this same arrangement, the lights dimmed and the play began, the walls of the apartment slid open to reveal a further area to the back containing a bed and bathroom. Beautiful, verging on rather haunting music is played as Kyra enters the apartment and between that and the eerie light illuminating the backdrop of the apartment complex, I thought to myself, this is it, it's going to be magical (trust the daydreamer in me to look for even the slightest fantastical elements in things). Well it didn't exactly go in the direction of my expectations but don't get me wrong, it was still absolutely 'magical' in an extremely realistic and thought-provoking way. First of all I think this is probably not a play for everyone. You're either going to love it or dislike it. It's safe to say not much happens at all during the course of the 2 hours in terms of action. Essentially the whole play is a long running conversation between Mulligan's character, Kyra Holis, and firstly Edward Sergeant, then Tom Sergeant (the father). While the opening scene serves to introduce the names and relationships between the characters, it's not until the next act when Nighy's Sergeant Sr. pays a visit to Kyra's apartment that things start to get very interesting indeed.
Both actors were devastatingly brilliant at portraying the emotional turmoil between them but more importantly the differences deep in each other's personal beliefs and value systems which ultimately leads to their inability to continue their lives with one another. It's a strange yet utterly compelling idea, that two people could be as close to soulmates in almost every possible way yet are still unable to be together. One of my favourite exchanges between the two characters went like this:
Tom: "I could never understand it. I still don't."
Kyra: "There we are. I always felt profoundly at peace. I don't know why, it still seems true to me: if you have a love, which for any reason you can't talk about, your heart is with someone you can't admit - not to a single soul except the person involved - then for me, that's love at it's purest. For as long as it lasts, it's this astonishing achievement. Because it's always a relationship founded in trust."
Hidden corners in my mind that were previously never explored, grew as this intoxicating story unfurled and gradually filled it, testing different boundaries in my rational thinking, all the while giving me a fresh outlook on life and society. Times of heightened emotions really touched me so I was glad that there were brief spells of comic relief infused in the witty banter. After a while the play becomes so real that you feel as if you were sitting in that apartment with Kyra and Tom. When she goes to make dinner, the actress actually cooks live on stage and the delicious aroma swiftly fills the entire theatre.
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Images 2 & 3 via Just Jared, all other images are my own.