Park Theatre, London – until 12 August 2017
“It’s hard isn’t it?”
Completed shortly before his death in 2014, Kevin Elyot’s Twilight Song now belatedly receives its premiere courtesy of the Park Theatre. The play doesn’t emerge as one of his strongest though; the shadow of the excellent My Night With Reg lingers long over the scant 75 minutes here and you’re left wondering just how completed the play was – would it have benefited from another turn or two in the development mangle after its initial run.
Twilight Song finds itself split between the present day and the 1960s, looking at the relationship between homosexualist Barry, his mother Isabella and his wider family. From his boyhood when decriminalisation was just around the corner but still too late for a closeted uncle, to his present day where sexual liberation hasn’t prevented him from frustrated singledom, we see how individual happiness doesn’t necessarily follow societal change no matter your sexuality or generation.
Thing is though, it proves rather hard to care too much about characters sketched as thinly as these – such a truncated running time and such a format allows precious little time for character development and to put it bluntly, the dialogue here just isn’t up to the task. It’s only the quality of the acting that pulls you through – Paul Higgins’ unfulfilled Barry contrasted and deepened by his doubling as his ineffectual father, Philip Bretherton and an excellent Hugh Ross as the uncles.
Perhaps reflecting a lack of confidence in the material, Anthony Banks’ production relies a little too heavily on overbearing musical cues to generate a depth of feeling that rarely emanates from the text. And the overall result is of something frustratingly slight and hardly the kind of legacy you imagine Elyot would be happy leaving.