January 25 to February 20, 1999
Starring Terence Kelly, Gina Wilkinson and Haig Sutherland
by Roxanne Davies
The chains of marriage are so heavy it takes two people to carry them. Sometimes three. I can't remember who said that, but the line came to me while I was watching the Vancouver Playhouse Production of David Hare's powerful contemporary drama, Skylight.
Hare, an award winning British playwright is well known for creating interesting roles for actors, and has been very active in the British theatre scene. However, Vancouver audiences have had few opportunities to taste an offering from this talented playwright.
This play is one of Hare's most recent works. Love, marriage, politics and the difficult choices real people are often forced to make are all deftly explored in this terrific play. The characters are complicated, not caricatured and the ending, although somewhat optimistic, is not the "happily ever after" variety.
Everything about this production shows an attention to detail, from the smell of onions frying to the rain smeared windows. Both acts take place in Kyra's rundown apartment. The excellent lighting by Gerald King, is demonstrated by the dawn 's early light coming through the windows, to the spot lights on the various characters.
The plot revolves around a single night when two lovers reunite and try to recapture their lost love. Tom is played by Terence Kelly, who has played in over 50 Vancouver Playhouse productions. Kyra is played by Gina WIlkinson, who I last saw as Mircea in the Vancouver Playhouse production, Atlantis. Both actors did justice to their multi-layered roles.
Tom overcomes his humble roots to become a successful entrepreneur. Kyra was a solicitor's daughter and has overcome her patrician roots to become an inner city school teacher. They both feel the need to justify and explain their life choices to each other. Kyra was content to be Tom's lover while remaining a friend to his wife and family; Tom's wife, Alice, died of cancer a year before. She spent her last days staring at the birds through the skylight Tom had built in her bedroom. Her memory remains a sad spectre for both Tom and Kyra. They both share a profound guilt over the pain they caused her.
The action is beautifully book -ended with performances by Vancouver Playhouse newcomer Haig Sutherland, who plays Tom's son, Edward. He adds a breath of hope as he grapples with the demons who haunt his father and torment his former lover. The final scene with Edward and Kyra is touching and leaves the audience with a sense of fulfillment even thought the exact fate of the characters remains unclear.
The dialogue is fast paced and extremely clever. I particularly liked Tom bemoaning his wife's growing spiritualism at the end: "When someone says they've had a spiritual experience, they mean, it's mine. Now shove off!".
Kyra cries that she can't stand the attitude of the rich: "The self-pity of the rich. They want us to line up and thank them as well." And she yells at Tom, "Don't you think I have enough memories. Why do I want any more?"
The class structure of England is brutally underscored. It reminded me of a compassionate friend recently returned to Canada , cutting short a lucrative job in England's school system. He was expected to yell at the children to make them subservient.
Although the promo shots of the actors showed them lying near naked in a bed, this scene must be imagined, since all the action takes place in Kyra's sitting room. I found it amazing that Wilkinson could deliver her lines so well all the while cutting up and cooking onions on stage. It was one of those attentions to detail that makes this production so satisfying.
Director Bill Dow said this production created great feelings among the crew and cast. He was excited to present this Hare production to Vancouver audiences who have seen few productions from this award-winning British playwright. He had great material to work with and a talented cast to direct. Let's hope that Vancouver can enjoy another Hare play sometime soon. The audience proved it is mature enough to appreciate the themes that inspire this playwright. I could almost hear them repeating one of the lines as they filed out of the theatre "Oh, I see. That's how they were like."