It was around 18 months ago that David Hare’s Skylight was revived for the West End with Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy taking the lead roles.
And it is no wonder such British acting heavyweights were cast for the production. Skylight is a claustrophobic whirlwind which doesn’t stop for breath, whether its arguing over politics or stomping around old relationships.
It pulls you through a 12 hour period without any let up, its characters pacing around a small flat, trying to work out what they want from life, and each other.
So it’s a brave move for Wokingham Theatre to tackle such an unruly piece of work, and the company goes ahead with full gusto.
Sophie Pierce takes the role of Kyra Hollis, a young teacher, working at a tough London school and living in a dingy flat. During the course of a day she is visited, briefly, by Edward Sargent (Aedan Day), and his father Tom (Alan Long), who enjoys a more lengthy stay.
It is the first time Kyra has seen Tom since the end of their six-year affair, during which time she lived alongside his family as a kind of big sister to his son and a confidant to his wife, who has since died. With grief and guilt hanging heavy, Tom goes to Kyra to see why she walked away, and whether anything remains.
In some ways it is mundane, these are two exes arguing over old problems and it feels almost tiresome to hear, but there are moments of real anguish and heartbreak which make this an intriguing piece to watch.
Both Pierce and Long play their roles with the intensity they require, and there has clearly been much thought about their motivations and behaviour towards one another. Kyra is defensive, cold and distant, but we see glimmers of softness and a reluctance to turn away from her past completely. Pierce plays her as a girl with her heart on her sleeve, and although Kyra could be in danger of becoming insipid in her behaviour towards Tom, she has enough bite when speaking about teaching, that it pulls her back.
Restaurant owner Tom is brash, arrogant and opinionated, but beneath we see his vulnerability and the pressing weight of his guilt. But although Long plays Tom’s arrogance well, he lacks the suaveness and charisma that we presume must have attracted Kyra to him all those years ago.
Hare has deliberately created an age gap, one of the many vast distances which separate Tom and Kyra like their political views and their social status, but age is only a number when in the right hands. Although they use their body language well, and there are tender looks aplenty, it’s not quite enough to make us really believe they loved each as much as we are told. But a chemistry as intense and complex as the kind Tom and Kyra have is not easy to create.
Wokingham Theatre, and director Hedda Bird in particular, have done a worthy job at tackling such a powerful piece of drama, and taking on what could well be one of the most unhappy ‘love stories’ of modern theatre.
Skylight is at Wokingham Theatre until 30 January. To book visit www.wokingham-theatre.org.uk .