Skylight is an Ambitious Show from a New Company
The folks at fledgling theatre company Hidden Cove Productions certainly have lofty ambitions. The title of their debut show, Skylight, seems to embody this. To me this was a show that swung for the fences, fell short of a home-run, but did manage to get on base.
I’m sure you’ve seen ads for this production plastered all over the TTC, that’s how I first heard about it. Skylight is written by the celebrated British playwright David Hare, someone that your more theatre savvy friends will at least pretend to know about. It won the Lawrence Olivier Award for Play of the Year in 1996. With decorated director Larry Moss at the helm and Stratford veteran Sara Topham as one of the leads, it’s clear that Hidden Cove is pulling out all the stops for their first show.
The play that unfolded before my guest and I at the Berkeley Street Theatre was a challenging piece and a strange choice for a debut. It’s a story of lost love and adultery used to express highly politicized messages about everything from the British class system to government aid in the UK.
Sara Topham delivers a captivating performance as Kyra, a schoolteacher living in the East End, trying desperately to distance herself from a privileged past when she was an aid to the wealthy Sergeant family. On a chilly winter’s night she is visited briefly by Edward Sergeant, played by an endearing Tim Dowler-Coltman, whom she helped raise. Later, Kyra is visited by her former lover Tom Sergeant, who is still reeling from the death of his wife a year prior.
Lindsey G. Merrithew stars alongside Sara Topham as Tom, a fidgety, troubled man. He can’t sit still for the life of him, which I did find it a bit distracting, but overall his performance met its mark. A nice bit of direction is seen in Tom’s similarly hyperactive son Edward (Dowler-Coltman). I found both these actors enjoyable, but it was Sara Topham as Kyra that blew me away.
Topham is a delight to watch onstage. Starting out tentative and almost ghostly, then growing louder and more confident as her emotions bubble to the surface. Each of her actions and expressions feel deliberate and tell you something about Kyra and her relationship to Tom. She commanded the audience’s attention through several impassioned monologues, at one point getting us to break out into applause after a rant about social services in the England.
A recurring thought I had while watching the show is that it feels quintessentially British, and I’m not sure how well that ports over to a Canadian audience. My guest disagreed with me strongly on this point, though we both agreed that Skylight‘s resolution did not have enough gravitas to bring the show to a satisfying close.
So as much as I wanted to love it, Skylight never really amounted to being more than the sum of its parts. There were a lot of things I enjoyed. There was live cooking, with Topham making spaghetti onstage, and the set design showed a meticulous attention to detail. I do have some gripes about the lighting and sound, in particular that the changes between scenes and the ambient recorded music seemed ill-fitted to Kyra’s dingy flat.
Though I personally found that Skylight never really came together to reach a fitting conclusion, Hidden Cove Production has made a bold debut with a complex show that manages to deliver on most levels.
- Skylight is playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St.)
- Performances run until July 9, 2016, with no shows on Mondays
- Shows are at 8 PM (Tues/Wed/Thurs/Sat), 7 PM Friday, and 1 PM Sunday.
- Tickets start at $38.
- You can buy the tickets online or call at (416) 368.3110.
Production photography by Matthew Plexman.