Being in London has been a wonderful opportunity to see the theater. It’s been seven months to the day we’ve been here, and we’ve actually seen more stage than screen. I first saw an advertisement for the play Skylight several months back. While the other plays we’ve seen have been older and classic, this was more modern originally performed in 1995. I was curious to see a newer play but also to see Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy in person and on stage.
This is Carey Mulligan’s introduction to the West End coming from her recent film successes of Inside Llewyn Davis and The Great Gatsby. Bill Nighy, famous for Pirates of the Caribbean and Love Actually, has actually played this part before several years ago. Bringing the two of these talented actors together was really astounding and had me believe what they were going through was real.
Skylight is about a young woman and an older man reminiscing their long ended affair. Tom has come to find Kyra a year after the passing of his wife to ask her why she left him. He misses her and wants her to come back to him now that he is a free man. But she has begun a new life on her own, without his help.
The dialogue in the play turns from debates on who is more in the right for their polar opposite lifestyles but also what they meant to each other over the course of a six year romance. The conversations felt very natural and what I would imagine an uncomfortable reunion would be with passive aggressive comments and forced congeniality along with bursts of anger and resentment. The play takes place over the course of a night and the whole time, you’re left wondering will they or won’t they get back together.
I very much enjoyed the play. I thought it was believable and well done by both parties. Having Nighy be a veteran of the material was nice to see, but almost over-rehearsed. His movements were extremely calculated that it felt premeditated rather than fluid with the new night. Mulligan had a little more fluidity, but it could also be because she had more to do physically. During the first part of their evening, she cooked for the two of them with a real gas stove and ingredients. The smells of spaghetti wafted through the audience and even made our eyes water when the onion hit the oil.
Jeff felt that the dialogue bordered on a sitcom feel. The moments of tension were almost too quickly relieved by a moment of humor. I can see what he meant by that, but there were plenty of times I felt uncomfortable by the silence and barbs thrown at each other.
I did love the set. The entire play takes place in her low rent flat on the east side of London. The way the set was constructed allowed you to see the breezeway in front of her door (so you could see people ringing the bell) and then across the way at the neighboring windows, but then of course gave an intimate view of her flat layout. Walls slid in and out showing a division between the den and bedroom and then kitchen and bathroom. When the walls were removed to show the entire flat, the actors still observed the block and acted accordingly.
The material did border on the political toward the end with Kyra talking/yelling about how wonderful her job is in teaching low-income students to try and change the world all the while taking it for the team and living in a neighborhood full of robbery and crime. One of the comments from Tom was that she is intentionally making herself out to be a martyr when she doesn’t have to be. She’s doing this primarily to be better than others. But his world is all living in the well-to-do neighborhood of Wimbledon, having a hired driver and more wealth than he knows what to do with. Both feel good and bad about their lives but are unwilling to make changes for themselves let alone each other.
It begs the question what this play is really about. Is it about their failed relationship and wanting to get it back, the horrible secret of their affair, or about London economics and who is better than whom? As an audience member, you draw your own conclusions on what their arguments really stemmed from, but I do believe it held more significance than its face value.
I highly recommend this play with these wonderful actors. Skylight plays until August 23rd.