Skylight: Existentialism in Northwest London

Published on: June 20, 2016

Filled Under: Featured, Reviews

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Several years ago I went to the last of a Massey Lecture series given by Stephen Lewis. Amidst his regular use of 4-syllable words, he said “…my ideology is my life”.   Meaning he lives in alignment with his own personal set of values and beliefs.  I remember only this part of his statement (the rest probably contained words I needed to look up in the dictionary), because I remember thinking, “How many people can say that? Can I?”

Skylight, the play by David Hare, currently on stage at the Berkeley St. Theatre as Hidden Cove Productions inaugural show, asks the same question, and more: “Do you live the life that reflects your values?” and “Are you happy with it?”

The play tells us the story of Tom (Lindsay G. Merrithew) and Kyra (a stellar Sara Topham). Former lovers and life partners Tom and Kyra were happily together for six years…until Tom’s wife, Alice, found out about it.  Further complicating matters is that Kyra was a surrogate member of Tom and Alice’s family; a girl who was older than their two children but much younger than their parents.  The betrayal runs deep: Alice discovers the relationship, Kyra splits without so much as a good-bye, and neither Tom nor Kyra lay eyes on one another – until tonight. Three years later. In the three years that have passed, Alice has died of cancer, Kyra has become a teacher in a low-income school, and lives in a lower-income neighbourhood, Tom has grown his successful restaurant business and now lives in a country estate with all the trappings of luxury.

And here lies the rub. Although Tom and Kyra deeply love the other, their ideologies of life differ so vastly that any compromise to live like the other would result in misery, and ultimately a loss of self.  Both are trying to atone for the guilt they feel at betraying Alice – Kyra giving herself completely to the struggles that come with a lower socio-economic status and the difficult life of public service, and Tom – trying to win Kyra back so that his betrayal of his wife, and her anger with him before her death, wasn’t for naught.

It’s a love story. But it hurts.

Larry Moss, the well-known American acting coach, directs. The show is tight and the actors not only listen to each other, but carry off so much stage business throughout, that it could almost be classified as choreography.   Talented Canadian set-designer Debra Hanson does a fabulous job with the set and David Hare’s writing is always on point.

Having said all of this, Skylight wasn’t my favourite. I felt very little towards the characters and was disappointed as I love being swept up in the empathy of live theatre. But the show did make me reflect on my own life choices and why I make them so it certainly wasn’t a loss.  Theatre is the best vehicle for self-reflection and Skylight certainly nailed that.

Skylight is on at the Berkeley St. Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) until July 7. For tickets click here.

Photo: Matthew Plexman Photography

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