Tuesday 18 July 2017

Theatre review: Twilight Song

Kevin Elyot’s final play is called, appropriately enough, Twilight Song, and it’s a short, distinctly odd one that left me with the suspicion he hadn’t quite finished working on it when he died. Alternating between the 1960s and the present day in the same suburban London villa, it was bought, largely thanks to a cash gift from a wealthy uncle, by Isabella (Bryony Hannah) and her meek new husband Basil (Paul Higgins.) Partly due to events that unfold in the play, the improvements they planned to make to it never happened and by the time their son Barry (also Higgins) is in his fifties, the place seems to be falling apart and he’s thinking of selling it. Estate agent Skinner (Adam Garcia) is optimistic that it can fetch a good price regardless, but he may just be buttering him up because he supplements his income with a side-line in prostitution, and he’s spotted a likely customer in the lonely and repressed Barry.

Back in 1967 Basil’s uncle Charles (Hugh Ross) and his lover Harry (Philip Bretherton) have been together for years in secret, the latter married and being blackmailed about his sexuality, while Isabella too is contemplating an affair with someone potentially dangerous.

On the one hand I want to criticise the play for the way its plot hinges on multiple coincidences that link its small circle of family and friends in a bigger picture they don’t quite comprehend, but on the other I suspect this might be the point, people looking for the things they lost or regretted over their lives, not realising the answers are very close to home. Elyot’s work is, for me, in many ways the antithesis of Gay Pride, to the point where the notorious Clapham Junction tipped over into the outright homophobic. Twilight Song fits into this bleak view of gay life with the present-day Barry almost as repressed and isolated as the 1960s couple back when their relationship was illegal (the recurring theme of gay sex leaving behind bloodstains also ties into this self-loathing aspect.)

Anthony Banks’ production occasionally has a wistful, dreamlike feel that ties in with the play’s oddness and isolation, and I did like James Cotterill’s simple design, which by putting the action in a central circle uses the Park’s stage in a different way than most (also making for much more comfortable leg-room in the front row sides.) There are moments when Twilight Song draws you in but with its mix of contemplative regret and soap-like whoops-you-accidentally-fucked-your-long-lost-brother* plot twists it’s a strange beast altogether.

Twilight Song by Kevin Elyot is booking until the 12th of August at Park Theatre 200.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Robert Workman.

*now there’s what Blood Brothers was missing!

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