Both are still going strong, but, as their respective three-handers illustrate, their approach was – and remains – markedly different.
Hare has always been a very political animal, and although his award-winning 1995 play Skylight focuses on an abruptly terminated six year affair, the reunion, three years later, of the since-widowed, wealthy restaurateur Tom and much younger Kyra is also a vehicle for political debate and criticism of the state of the country both then and now.
Kyra has completely turned her back on the comfortably glamorous existence which seduced her eighteen-year-old selfand is living in a shabby, unwelcoming flat in Kensal Rise and teaching in an equally insalubrious area. Their values are poles apart. The hurt – and the attraction – is still there, though, and over the course of an icy winter night, they delve into the past and disagree about the present.
Carey Mulligan’s Kyra is self-denying, almost detached as she rustles up a spag bol for her critical former lover, her current lifestyle a hairshirt penance (in Tom’s view) for her previous indulgence. In contrast, Bill Nighy (returning to a role he played almost two decades ago) is restless, uncompromising, often wryly amusing as he prowls this unfamiliar territory wrapped in the protection of his expensive coat.
Topped and tailed by unannounced visits from Tom’s gangly son (Matthew Beard) and directed by Stephen Daldry, this is a probing, finely judged revival of an enduringly relevant work.
By comparison, Peter Brook’s latest piece, co-written and directed with Marie-Helene Estienne, doesn’t delve far enough despite its fascinating subject matter. Starkly staged, it still makes for an engrossing evening, though, packed with intriguing characters blessed – or cursed – with unusual neurological conditions, including synaesthesia, a quirk of the brain in which stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary experience in a second. Thus a sound might automatically be experienced as a colour.
The always excellent Kathryn Hunter is touchingly forthright as Sammy, a forty something reporter whose phenomenal memory crams her brain with junk she can’t forget, Marcello Magni makes a jovial one-handed card shark, and Jared McNeill sweeps the stage with colour whilst two musicians provide an evocative soundscape.
Ultimately, it feels as though Brook, at the age of 89, still doesn’t quite know where to go with the material he has collected, but he presents it with affecting clarity and there is much here to entertain and provoke in its 75 minute running time.
Wyndhams, Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA
Until August 23
The Valley of Astonishment
Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
Until July 12
£10.00 – £35.00
Photo credit: John Haynes