Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Review Twilight Song
by Kevin Elyot
Ah! Sweet Mystery Of Life
Twilight Song, written by the late Kevin Elyot in 2014 just before his death, is an odd little playwriting confection about some odd fellows and a woman.
Analyse it closely and it turns out to be a tawdry tale of impregnation, loans, property, possible professional fraud, furtive sexual encounters, time slippages and blackmail, all wrapped in colourful tissue paper and tied with a great big ribbon bow.
We can't begin to add up all the self-consciously theatrical and cinematic styles it seems to go through - there's a touch of Rattigan, definitely some Noel Coward and Alfred Hitchcock, even a snippet of Christopher Isherwood, Charles Dickens and DH Lawrence (or is it EM Foster ...?) and, hey, is that Monty Python parody?
This is the première of Elyot's last play and, despite some sluggish moments, director Anthony Banks gives us a stylish production set on James Cotterill's wooden round stage living room with a settee, curved French windows, mahogany gramophone and a silver drinks' trolley to create a Scotch haze.
It's a slickly, but rather mechanically, put together play and it rather feels as if the playwright put together the themes going around rather than a deeply-felt piece.
Maybe it was intended to go a bit deeper into the gay influence on literature, film and television and what this meant before and after 1967 legislation, yet this never really develops, even in metaphor.
Still, after a slow and rather stilted beginning, the story does take hold. Barry (Paul Higgins) is a middle-aged gay retired pharmacist who lives with his mother in a North London Victorian villa. While she takes her regular weekly trip to Kent, he invites an estate agent (Adam Garcia) to give a valuation and other services.
Centred on the house, this modern day encounter slips back to the 1960s and delicate girlish bride Isabella (Bryony Hannah) welcoming two old codgers into her marital home.
Charles (Hugh Ross), an elderly doctor and seemingly someone's uncle. Harry (Philip Bretherton), a dodgy married solicitor, like Charles, seems well lodged in his current comfortable middle-class existence even if it seems the two men have a past.
Slipping back and forth in time, by the end we can piece together the story and obtain a sense of an ending but, while it may have been meant as a satire or parody, it comes across as a rather lacklustre playwriting effort.
References to Conservative but pro Welfare State prime minister MacMillan and 1960s emigration to Australia are flagged up as well as a wife's thwarted career.
However, in the end it feels as if we've been lured to spy through the keyhole at a rather insubstantial and too self-satisfied mystery story and it's an amber light.