Twilight Song (Park Theatre)

Posted: July 22, 2017 in Theatre


When he died in 2014, Kevin Elyot left a legacy that ranges from several camp adaptations for television of Agatha Christie novels to My Night With Reg, a masterpiece of gay (and all other) theatre. His final work, getting its premiere here, is a 75-minute melancholic comedy assessing more than half a century of social change.

Setting the play in 1961, 1967 and the present day, Elyot is inviting comparison’s with Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play Pride and there are many similarities. At the earliest date, two fusty old gentlemen – Harry (Philip Bretherton) and Charles (Hugh Ross) – hide their true feelings in fear of prosecution or blackmail. In the modern day, Barry (Paul Higgins), unemployed and skulking at home in a zip-up cardigan, does likewise to avoid displeasing his censorious mother. Repeatedly in this work, Elyot seems to be telling us that, when so much has changed, so much has stayed the same.

Another comparison must be with Terence Rattigan whose upper middle class England is inhabited by the characters here. The infidelity of Barry’s mother, Isabella (Bryony Hannah) reminds of Hester in The Deep Blue Seaher refined, orderly existence being intruded upon rudely by sexual desires and unfamiliar passion. Again, Elyot could be inviting this comparison with a tirade against the theatre of John Osborne that uses words that Rattigan himself might have written or spoken. Anthony Banks’ simple yet elegant production emphases further how past and present intertwine, with only the electrical equipment in James Cotterill’s drawing room set being different.

Elyot specifies that Barry and his father must be played by the same actor and the same for a gardener in the 1960s and an estate agent in the present day (both Adam Garcia), offering the teasing suggestion that the latter could be the son of the former. Such devices give the play symmetry and dark irony. All Eliot’s characters are suffocated by social pressures and yearning for what is, for them, unattainable. This short but rich work is a bitter-sweet, rueful reflection on the world that its writer has sadly departed.

Performance date: 20 July 2017

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