Skylight

Director: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy, Matthew Beard

Synopsis: On a cold London evening, teacher Kyra Hollis receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, Tom Sergeant, a successful restaurateur whose wife has recently died. As the evening progresses, the two attempt to rekindle their relationship only to find themselves stuck in a battle of opposing ideologies and mutual desires. 

Among the tourists and unremitting chaos of Leicester Square lies Wyndham’s Theatre and David Hare’s tremendous understated, absorbing Skylight starring Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy and Matthew Beard.

This revival of the play sees Nighy return to the role of Tom Sergeant, the part he took over from Michael Gambon in its original 1996 National Theatre run. What makes this new production even more special is Carey Mulligan in her West End debut as Kyra Hollis. That’s not the end of the top talent either as Stephen Daldry directs, a man responsible for the likes of BILLY ELLIOT, THE HOURS and THE READER with the latter two also written by Hare.

In Skylight, it’s early 1990 and we’re in the single location of Kyra’s (Mulligan) flat on desperately cold London night and later on in this evening, she’ll receive an unexpected visit from her ex-lover Tom Sergeant (Bill Nighy), a successful restaurateur whose wife recently passed away. We learn of her fate via the brief appearance of Edward, Tom’s 18-year-old son played by rising star Matthew Beard who, despite a fleeting cameo, is a vital character that frames the story.

We begin with Kyra arriving home with shopping to her council-type estate flat in Kensal Rise. It has the basic mod-cons but without the frills and, if anything, is resembles any flat you live in when you’ve barely got enough to survive. Assumption is certainly everything at this point. As she lays books out on the kitchen table, we can tell she’s a teacher and it’ll later transpire that she works with disadvantaged kids in an East Ham school, where the victories for learning are small but when achieved can be inspiring.

The social commentary is rife with both characters fully focused on their lives and the paths they’ve chosen. Written in 1995, we’re set a few years before when the end of Thatcherism was rearing it broken promises and everyday people were struggling with even the basic day-to-day life. I wouldn’t say the political nature is overwhelming though as Skylight is quintessentially about Tom and Kyra’s relationship and life choices.

Skylight will make you feel and understand the nature of two people trying to find the balance in their very different lives but also coming from dissimilar moral backgrounds. It’s certainly not preaching to the disaffected because whereas both Kyra and Tom give great purpose for their place in the world, you’ll also find yourself agreeing with both of them at the same time. It’s this connection to the characters and the narrative that keeps your view shifting and the scenario compelling.

This beautifully poised and focused debate play also finds Mulligan and Nighy at their absolute finest. The word ‘subtle’ or ‘natural’ are often misused because in Skylight each actor finds a place that makes it all relatable. Initially, Kyra is a listener and reflective and often this can be mistaken for weakness but it’s evidently clear as the night moves on how much power she holds and the passion bubbling underneath.

Tom’s the opposite of Kyra, he paces the room and never holds back on any thought or feeling, consistently moving around the flat, sitting down and force-ably kicking the chair back under the table. It’s clear to see that he’s not here for a simple chat, he’s there to do something and make a fresh change in his life – with possible positive intentions.

David Hare’s Skylight offers a wealth of questions but it’s also intelligent enough to let you decide for yourself which side you’re on, if either. Our leads discuss everything through education, jobs, relationships and they try to discover the truth beneath. It’s utterly compelling, beautifully funny, and tremendously relevant with the perfect chemistry that makes it a complete package.  London theatre doesn’t get much better than this.

[usr=5] Skylight is booking now at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London until August 23rd. Click here for more details.