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Production

Skylight

Company

Escape Theatre Limited

Reviewer

Musa Fazal

Date

22/04/2005

Time

8.00pm

Place

Play Den, The Arts House

Rating

***

From On High

When it comes to love stories, the simplest plots are the best.

Tom is a restaurant owner who falls in love with his waitress Kyra. They have an illicit affair, right under the nose of Tom's wife - Kyra becomes a housekeeper/companion of the family, and actually lives with them. But the wife finds out and Kyra runs away. Soon after, Tom's wife dies of cancer and, unable to endure the loneliness, Tom decides to look for Kyra.

The play begins the night Tom finds Kyra. Interestingly it is Edward, Tom's 18-year-old son, who first appears at the door (Edward ends the play as well). Not quite schooled in social graces, Edward arrives at Kyra's apartment bearing a sixpack of beer as a gift. His aim is to tell Kyra of how his father has fallen apart since his mother's death. Tom arrives moments after Edward leaves, and apparently knows nothing of Edward's visit. But, like his son, he comes bearing gifts - whisky, instead of beer. Tom and Kyra enter into a richly textured dialogue in which all the events of their past affair are revealed.

The beauty of David Hare's script is in the layering. Tom and Kyra have two completely different views of the world and their perspectives colour their views of each other and of their relationship. Moments of physical attraction between the two lovers struggle against the moments of disgust each feels at the obnoxiousness of the other's views.

There are many examples of this. Kyra is appalled that Tom sees nothing wrong in leaving his chauffeur Frank out in the cold waiting for him. For Tom, "Frank isn't people; Frank is a man doing a job." Kyra, in contrast, lights up when she talks about her early morning journeys on the bus among real people to get to the suburban school where she now teaches. Tom can't understand why Kyra endures living in an apartment with such poor heating. But for Kyra there is nothing wrong with the apartment because "it's how people live". It is this polemic that widens the scope of the sharp, witty repartee between the two lovers into a story of much greater breadth and depth.

But the characters of Tom and Kyra are far too complex and nuanced to be neatly pigeonholed as the "capitalist conservative" or the "socialist rebel". Tom laments Kyra's crude characterisation of him as one of the self-pitying "right wing fuckers". For her, he believes, "people are symbols" and "disqualified from having feelings." Tom tries to portray Kyra as being from a social status no different to his - she was the daughter of wealthy parents and she graduated first in her class. He attacks her insistence on running away from reality, clearly shown in his eyes by the way she refuses to watch the news, or read the papers. He cruelly declares that the only reason she takes the bus is because she can get off in three minutes - she loves "the people" because she doesn't have to commit. Kyra attacks Tom's hypocrisy by showing that Tom deliberately left her love letters in the kitchen for his wife to discover - in the end, it was he that failed to commit to their secret.

By the end of this we are left with two wounded lovers, whose personal differences are so great they are unable to reconcile in spite of the strength of their yearning for each other. There is more than a hint of tragedy in Tom's quiet departure, and Kyra's attempt to restore some order to her living room after he leaves.

Janice Koh did a beautiful job as Kyra. She made the character very real and very likeable, and showed great subtlety, range and control. Lim Kay Tong cut a dashing presence on stage, but fell shy of achieving both the playful heights of Tom's magnificent conceit and the depths of his insecurities. The chemistry between the two was palpable, but a little lukewarm, and there seemed to be room in the script for something more. Daniel Hutchinson was a natural as Edward, with an endearing and disarming smile, but he lacked the practised body language of the more experienced actors.

Set designer Samatha Scott Blackhall and director Mark Waite get perfect scores for staging. The play seemed custom-made for the Play Den. The audience was allowed to invade Kyra's apartment from all sides, and this created a strong sense of intimacy. The apartment was decorated with a wonderful attention to detail, and the sensible use of lighting to mirror moments of tension and warmth did not go unnoticed.

In the final scene, hope filters in through the skylight. It is morning and Edward appears bearing a huge, hearty breakfast - something Kyra had said the night before that she missed more than anything else. Clearly Edward has paid more attention than his father. It is not a happy ending, but a reassuring one. Reassuring in its reminder of the potential of youth as the idealists among us recharge to face another blistering cold day.


"The play seemed custom-made for the Play Den. The audience was allowed to invade Kyra's apartment from all sides, and this created a strong sense of intimacy"

Credits

Director: Mark Waite

Lighting Designer: Yo Shao Ann

Set Designer: Samantha Scott Blackhall

Asst. Set Designer: Mohammed Muneer Sidek

Stage Manager: Koo Ching Long

Asst. Stage Manager: Joanne Ng

Costume Designer: Betty Png

More Reviews of Productions by Escape Theatre Limited

More Reviews by Musa Fazal

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.