National Theatre Live: Skylight
(live screening of performance from the Wyndham Theatre, London)
Eden Court Cinema
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by Margaret Chrystall
IT’S not every day you sit down in a cinema in Inverness and find yourself with front row seats at one of the biggest West End hits of the year.
The revival of David Hare’s Skylight – where ex-lovers meet and rake over the smouldering embers of what might still be the love of their lives – sees blistering performances from Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan.
Nighy in particular is a revelation as a stage actor. His edgy, constant pacing, twisting and turning back on himself like a caged beast, shows us the restless energy - and an impatience with restriction - that has made rich restaurateur Tom literally a mover and shaker. Carey Mulligan counters as much younger teacher Kyra with a knowing warmth and slightly sanctimonious selflessness allowed to peek through as she chops and prepares food throughout the first act for their meal.
But Hare’s play – as well as slowly revealing the story these two share – also uses them as ciphers standing for two opposing forces in the UK society of 1994 when Skylight was first written, as battle raged between the self-starters and money-makers at the expense of a society once based on caring, responsible morality.
One of the most exciting things about the original live screening was the interval interview with Hare – the only one he has agreed to during this revival of the play.
“People keep telling me how relevant it is, but people were telling me how relevant it was at the time!” he laughed. “The reason I wrote it was we had had 15 years of society telling us that only entrepreneurs mattered and – hello! – we’ve just had another four years of that!”
Interviewed by Emma Freud, he reminded the world that he had been the first one to cast Bill Nighy as a romantic lead back in 1979 and had worked with him 10 times since.
Though Michael Gambon was the first to play Tom in 1995, when Skylight won the Olivier Award for best new play, Bill Nighy was cast when it returned to the stage two years later.
For audiences not familiar with the subtle messages Hare sends every time he mentions many different areas of London, it is at least possible to work someof them out - with a little help from the characters.
Kyra’s decision to live in Kensal Rise and work at a tough school in East Ham is mercilessly decoded for us with wry humour by Tom when he says: “You work in one dreadful place – but that’s not enough for you! – you have to live in another dreadful place and COMMUTE BETWEEN THE TWO!”
Now that he’s moved to Wimbledon, Kyra accuses Tom of having “lost all sense of reality in that warm bubble of money”.
Can they resolve their differences? Tom’s son Edward – played by Matthew Beard as a restless, smart, slightly-uncomfortable-with-feelings chip off the old block - does his best to help.
And how does it feel to be in a cinema watching a theatre production?
Most of the time with the camera fairly close to the main actors, you’re hardly aware you’re not there in the theatre with the best seat in the house.
There’s one close-up - on a tender moment. And at the start of each act, the camera takes a wide shot of Kyra’s brutalist high-rise flat with the blinking lights of the windows of her neighbours as backdrop in Bob Crowley’s design - another pointer to the lengths Kyra will go in her search for anonymity as a dutiful worker ant.
Possibly the only moment when you felt like a cinema-goer came at the end.
Not joining in the applause and standing ovation we could see in the Wyndham theatre felt wrong – but so did joining in!
YOU CAN STILL SEE SKYLIGHT: The Encore – recorded – version of the live screening from Wyndham’s Theatre in London can be seen again in Inverness at Vue on Thursday July 31) at 7pm and at Eden Court Cinema on Sunday at 7pm, next Thursday (August 7) at 11am and 7pm and also on August 24 at 4pm.