Park Theatre, London – until 12 August 2017
Anthony Banks directs this sharp production but Kevin Elyot’s play feels rushed and in need of some more depth and character development to be fully satisfying.
Switching between 1961,1967 and the present day, Kevin Elyot’s Twilight Song is a story filled with guilt and secrets that has repercussions for all of the characters involved.
Barry’s relationship with his mother is at best difficult, but as we delve into their family history it soon becomes clear the depth of resentment that Isabella has had for events that have taken place in her life such as the loss of a child and a distant (as it turns out gay) husband and her constant struggle to accept the way her life has turned out.
But although the play and production have both good intentions in unravelling the story of this family with more secrets than anything in common it takes far too long (particularly given just over the hour running time) to get going. The opening scene in which Barry discusses with estate agent Skinner the house in which he has lived in all his life – while filled with many brilliant and honest lines feels a little purposeless and doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter quickly enough.
However, James Cotterill’s designs and Tim Lutkin’s lighting design (particularly during the scene in which Isabella directs her anger and resentment at Barry) provides the focus required to keep the audience’s attention on what is being slowly unveiled in front of them.
Anthony Banks has certainly created a tense and gripping production that keeps the audience involved with what is happening, but it also reveals the flaws in the play such as the need to develop relationships between characters such as Isabella and Basil to understand their motivations, guilt and eventually resentment to each other. Perhaps the intent is to show how guilt and secrecy keeps all of the characters feeling isolated and alone – but this in turn alienates the audience from being able to feel fully involved.
Bryony Hannah has the most interesting role in Isabella whose fondness for drink becomes an increasing crutch as she begins to become aware that she is losing control over her seemingly perfect life. Hannah, although initially sweet and charming beautifully increases in stature as the production goes on – culminating in her angry scene with Barry in which Isabella clearly understands how much her son is like her former husband. It is the most rounded character in the production.
There are also lovely performances from Philip Bretherton as Harry (frightened and being blackmailed about his personal life) and Hugh Ross as Charles – both charismatic and characters that the audience can relate to. It is just a shame that both Adam Garcia and Paul Higgins aren’t given enough to work with in their characters or time on stage to make as much as an impact – enhancing the feeling that Elyot could have developed the play further.
Overall, Twilight Song is filled with interesting ideas that could have been developed further for better clarity and understanding. But Anthony Banks has created a sharp and increasingly intense production that has strong potential had the material been slightly stronger.