There is a moment in Skylight, David Hare’s award-winning 1995 play, where businessman Tom talks about religion and spirituality. He declares his admiration for the former due to its rules and expectations of behaviour. He dismisses the latter as wishee-washee and unreasonable. This observation tells us a lot about his character. It is the reason, he declares, why he and his late-wife Alice were incompatible. This declaration is made to Kyra, a schoolteacher with whom he had an affair some years ago. The play centres on a visit by Tom to her flat some years later.
In Tamara Harvey’s 2017 revival, part of Theatr Clwyd’s opening season, this flat is a fully-functioning abode. Jeany Spark, bringing a quiet strength to the role of Kyra, is tasked with running a bath, making tea, washing up, and cooking Spaghetti Bolognese. It is no small feat, but judging by the smell, the latter is a resounding success. Yet this realism isn’t just for show. It serves to bring Hare’s brilliantly sharp satire to life, adding an extra layer of verisimilitude that makes for an engrossing two-and-a-bit hours. Harvey’s production doesn’t overshadow the script; rather, it enhances it, particularly through the set design. The flat is supported and surrounded by giant breeze blocks, representing a simple yet effective image which blends seamlessly into the background. There is ambient lighting throughout, with simple fades into day and night. The layout of the flat ensures that the important action takes place centre stage whilst not compromising on its realist look.
Spark and Villiers strike up a commendable partnership. They capture the punchy and witty nature of Hare’s script even if they don’t seem to hit the emotional heights one might expect. Instead, both play their characters with a good measure of self-control. They are like two players in a verbal tennis match, each hitting a weighty serve of political conviction and personal revelation but never quite achieving that emotionally-satisfying ace. But what you lose in emotion, you gain in the clarity of Hare’s script. They deliver their lines so cleanly and clearly that you are under no illusion as to their beliefs and values. And this extends not only to religion, but to politics, business and human interaction too.
It was a real joy to witness this production. It is surprising that Skylight has not been performed more since its initial run. Harvey is to be commended for bringing it back to our attention. Its relevance within the modern political landscape should not be underestimated.