first night


Dominic McGovern enjoys an evening of dramatic bolognese cooking with Fourth Wall's production of 'Skylight'


I was nervous as I entered Empty Shop last night to watch Fourth Wall Theatre’s production of David Hare’s Skylight, the use of the venue for ‘small’ plays or as an alternative to the Assembly Rooms has become so commonplace in the last few years it could have easily felt contrived. I was pleasantly surprised, however, upon entering the main room of Empty Shop to find that an actual flat had been created, the audience having to walk through the bedroom and the kitchen to reach their seats.


The set design is realistic to a tee and is by far the standout feature of the production; I was particularly appreciative of the decision to leave the window uncovered, with the light from the street lamps shining through and the sounds of traffic from the street outside serving as background detail to the action of the play making it utterly believable that we were in an actual North London bedsit.


While the production is undeniably impressive, the action of the play is marginally less so. The script alludes to a politically polarised society but does often feel like it skirts around issues it could delve more deeply into, this being said, the two leads give engaging performances and are obviously aware of their characters’ political intents. Tristan Robinson, as the neo-Thatcherite businessman Tom, often made me forget that I was watching a teenager playing a middle-aged man, his performance visibly getting stronger as his confidence as an actor grew through the first act.


Elissa Churchill is wonderfully naturalistic as his liberal adversary Kyra, perfectly capturing the middle-class feminist attempting to eschew her privileged background by clinging to the disadvantaged primary school children she teaches. While I thought that both Robinson and Churchill gave intelligent performances, it sometimes felt hard to believe that they had been lovers, with a far more convincing relationship being the sibling-like one seen between Kyra, and Tom’s sweet yet stereotypically indignant teenage son Edward, played excellently by Harvey Comerford.


The humour of the script I often felt was not fully realised, with several of Tom’s assaults on what he sees as the banality of Kyra’s new life feeling underwhelming, and his commentary on the new managerial structure of his workplace not nearly as bitingly funny as it could have been.


On the whole, however, the production is impressive, Robinson and Churchill’s ability to perfectly manage their sniping at each other around the live cooking of a Spaghetti Bolognese on stage without the cues feeling forced (don’t make the mistake of going to see this play on an empty stomach, sitting in the front row being able to smell and see the Bolognese meant that the dialogue was occasionally interrupted by the rumbling stomachs of several audience members) being a credit to the production. The play had the potential to be excellent, and I’m sure that with the confidence of second and third nights, it will only get better.

4 March 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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