Skylight is a politically fuelled play that will have audiences enthralled from the moment the curtain goes up. The play, by David Hare, was first staged in 1995 and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. There is always a risk with state-of-the-nation type of plays that they will not stand the test of time but this is not the case here, in fact under Stephen Daldry’s skilful direction it continues to be unnervingly relevant. He keeps it in the period, the only hint of technology a landline and a Discman.
The play is a clash of ideological and political views, the two main characters represent diametrically opposed opinions and live lives at the opposite ends of the social spectrum. But all is not quite as clear cut as it would first appear, and here we have the true skill of Hare’s writing, our two key characters know each other intimately. Tom (Bill Nighy), a wealthy restaurateur and business man and Kyra (Carey Mulligan), a middle classed teacher in a tough East End state school were once lovers and very much in love. Kyra worked for Tom and became a close family friend until his wife found out about the affair.
The action takes place in Kyra’s dilapidated flat on a council estate in a forgotten part of North London. We never know what has brought first Edward (Matthew Beard), Tom’s son and later Tom to visit Kyra after all these years. But what follows is a polarised debate on British society, the “have lots” and “have not’s” and their justifications for the lifestyles they pursue. The play is also about guilt and how people deal with it, Hare cleverly uses Tom and Kyra’s relationship and intimacy to make his various social, political and ideological points.
Bill Nighly is superb as Tom and he gives a mesmerising performance as he prowls about the stage exuding confidence, success and power. Mulligan provides an equally strong Kyra, full of anger, outrage and self sacrifice. Both are self-righteous, arrogant and full of guilt. Together they give an electrifying performance.