Theatre review: Skylight. Axbridge Town Hall
Super Mario, UB40 and the good old Yellow Pages. Yes, we’re transported back in time to a grungy London flat in the late 1980s or early 1990s in a drama staged by Axbridge Community Theatre in the town hall. With its universal themes of love, betrayal, opportunity, death, guilt and father and son conflict David Hare’s play Skylight rings true in any era.
At the heart of the drama are a series of failed relationships triggered by the monstrous ego of Tom Sergeant (portrayed by an on-form Tony Wilson) who manages to wreck the lives of those around him as he builds his business empire. His former lover Kyra Hollis played brilliantly (with a necessary subtlety) by Marieke Roebuck has her quiet evening at home marking school work interrupted by Tom’s son Edward and then later Tom – whose conversations casts a light on their troubled pasts and even more troubled present lives.
Directed with insight by Hannah Strohmeier (with Phil Saunders as assistant director) the cast of three gave exceptional performances. In lesser hands the play could have faltered but here the pace never stalls. Jude Wilson as angry and confused Edward sparked the conflicting versions of their joint pasts into life as he demanded answers about his father’s affair. It was a stunning debut from Jude who made the most of his lines including his description of his girlfriend: “She’s the only girl who will sleep with me,” and “we even smell the same.”
As the self-important businessman and chauvinist Tom, Tony Wilson gave a committed and believable performance as well as convincing as the former lover of Kyra. With a 20 year gap between the two ex-lovers there needed to be chemistry and Marieke Roebuck balanced the equation with a mixture of empathy, understanding and body language in a first class portrayal as a school teacher seeking an escape from her past.
A fourth character who is spoken about but not seen is Tom’s late wife Alice, the “dumb-ass model” who died in a specially designed room complete with a skylight – which gives the play its title. As Alice lay on her deathbed, self-pitying Tom admits he went abroad unable to cope with her final hours. Tony it must be said does self-pitying very well. With Hare’s spicy lines there are times you want to shout at him and take his character to task.
The grungy flat complete with working kitchen and electric bar heater was designed and constructed by Dave Moore, Don Guy, Will Vero and Nico Mann while lighting was provided by Pete Homewood.
Funny, telling and full of home truths the play’s seemingly simplistic setting and construction belies the complexities of its themes. There’s the recrimination between Tom and Kyra and their failed relationship, social democratic politics vs Thatcherite capitalism, the public vs private sectors, dysfunctional families vs living a solo life and liberal feminism vs toxic masculinity. It’s a lot to unpack and a lot to enjoy in this funny and feisty drama directed with style and staged with professionalism and produced by John Kendall. One footnote which can be added is that father and son Tom and Edward are also father and son in real life. Another reason to catch the play before its run ends on Saturday.
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Skylight runs from Wednesday to Saturday, November 27-30, 2019, nightly at 7.30pm in Axbridge Town Hall.
For more about Axbridge Community Theatre visit: https://sites.google.com/site/axcomtheatre/ and see their FaceBook site. Their next venture is to be involved in the staging of the Axbridge Pageant in August 2020. For details visit: http://axbridgepageant.com/index.html