Tue 12th – Sat 16th January 2016


William Tilbrook

at 09:35 on 13th Jan 2016



Written by David Hare, this is an award-winning play driven by dialogue and character and so one might easily think, in the wrong hands, it could become easily repetitive, boring, and slow. However, to a large extent, this production of Skylight avoided the obvious pitfalls and the cast and production team pulled off a highly engaging and emotionally-affecting show, which I would highly recommend going to see this week at the Corpus Playroom.

The two main characters, school teacher, Kyra, and successful restaurateur, Tom, played superbly by Georgie Henley and Will Bishop respectively, meet years after their six-year love-affair has ended, in Kyra’s dingy London flat and in the aftermath of Tom becoming widowed. Their exchange makes up the vast majority of the play’s action. The awkward conversation when Tom first arrives naturally elides into their discussing of their past together whilst preparing dinner, and then further into the possibility of a future together, all the while revealing sharp insights into each character’s psychology which was delightful to experience as an audience member- the writing and acting both play a part in making this story come to life.

The framing of this, by turn, tense, saddening, fiery, and amusing dialogue with the scenes with Tom’s son, Edward, (Tom Taplin), which are contrastingly much more light-hearted, add all the more poignancy to the drama of this central narrative, whilst also being engaging in their own right. The playful energy of Taplin elicited laughter and long “aww”s from the audience, though his skittishness (either the character’s or the actor’s) at the play’s start didn’t ease them into the performance very smoothly.

However, the prize for most engaging performance, in my opinion, is clearly stolen by Henley. The realism with which she acts is striking; the way she conveys the wide variety of emotions experienced by her character during the play is testament to her talent, and most importantly, her acting was highly convincing to the point where it was very easy to forget she was performing at all. She has been perfectly cast in this production. The same can be said for Bishop who has never failed to impress when I’ve seen him come on stage at Corpus. His cool portrayal of Tom, again, looks close to effortless at times and he was at his best during his fiery exchanges with Henley in the second half.

The one major note of criticism is that, after a while, the central narrative became a bit samey. This may have been improved by the director cutting out some of the play’s dialogue in the middle, and almost certainly shortening or cutting the ‘scene’ at the start where Kyra is on stage pottering around as the audience came in: it didn’t add anything to the performance and meant that the actors had to be repetitive in their reactions as time went on. Having said that, I never found myself bored, due to the strong cast making the story seem so natural, it is only that I feel the performance could have been shorter and even so not lost any value.

Besides this, the decision to play music throughout was notable for adding to the overall engagement to the play; although it was ambient, it served as a fitting aural backdrop to the intimate conversation, and the highly realistic acting surely could not have been pulled off without precise direction, and so Amelia Oakley, and her assistant directors should be commended.

The first-rate acting, the interesting choice of play, and the very fine directing have all lead to this production of Skylight being highly moving and deeply insightful, though perhaps a little repetitive. Nonetheless, this production is definitely worth a watch.


Joanna Taylor

at 09:58 on 13th Jan 2016



Cathartic and emotionally involving, Skylight delves into the depths of human psychology, engaging with topics from love to adultery to social justice. Just as we decide to side with one of the two protagonists- Kyra Hollis (Georgie Henley) or Tom Sergeant (Will Bishop)- the other will admit or unearth something further, scattering our assumptions about each character and the complex, yet constant love that has united them after six years of being apart.

At first, Kyra Hollis appears to be an ordinary school teacher: marking books whilst snacking on bread with the occasional yawn creates a relatable and recognisable scene from our first entrance to the theatre, and invokes the realism which is fluently adhered to throughout the drama. It is not until the entrance of her lover’s son, then her lover himself, that we begin to see beneath the surface to the stunning depths of her character. Her impassioned arguments with Tom are balanced against more touching moments ranging from playful to loving to melancholy: her character development is intriguing, and matched by Tom’s, who conceals an unexpected tenderness beneath his high-flying business man exterior.

As well as its emotional rigour, Skylight’s success lies with its energy: sustaining interest and building to a climax with only two characters ever on stage at once is a difficult feat, particularly given that the play is almost entirely based on dialogue and never leaves Kyra’s South London apartment. Vivid descriptions of distant memories and other places means that we frequently feel as if the scenery is changed- from the sloping, glass-fronted room where Tom’s wife passed away to the beach where Kyra first wrote Tom love letters- our imagination is transported far beyond what we can physically see.

Georgie Henley’s portrayal of Kyra maintained Skylight’s realism: she journeyed through a range of emotions, clearly deeply involved with her character, without resorting to melodrama or over-reaction. On stage for almost two hours and acting a highly demanding role means that her performance should certainly be commended, although I didn’t always feel that she connected with the audience: too many tearful breakdowns and swings between quirky and level-headed, to fervent and passionate, at times slowed the pace of the play. This is largely the fault of David Hare’s writing, however, which is generally very good but could have cut some of the repetitions to avoid his play ever becoming slow-moving.

Will Bishop also delivered as Tom, his command of character and dynamic stage presence vital in keeping up the play’s energy, and contributing much of its interest. Tom is a man we want to listen to - it is rare to see a seemingly callous business man reveal the depths of his own emotion- and Bishop portrayed him with stunning accuracy and ability. The final cast member, Tom Taplin as Edward Sergeant, was a little awkward to begin with: the play got off to a slightly nervous start generally, but it quickly eased into a natural and believable drama, and Tom himself was vastly improved by his second appearance, eliciting ‘aaahs’ from the audience for his touching act of loyalty towards Kyra. I imagine that much of this was down to opening night nerves, and Taplin’s performance will only gain force as performances of Skylight continue.

If realism is for you, then so is Skylight. Sustaining a script which doesn’t stray out of a single room stands as a testament to the actors’ skill, as well of as that of the directors and producers. Few other performances will create such an inner dialogue within its audience as we react to the arguments and revelations we are presented with and the extraordinary commentary on love and human nature.


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