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Twilight Song, Park Theatre, review: ‘Kevin Elyot’s dialogue is foot-stompingly funny, economical and cuttingly brutal’

PUBLISHED: 17:49 24 July 2017

Byrony Hannah in Twilight Song. Picture: Robert Workman

Byrony Hannah in Twilight Song. Picture: Robert Workman

© Robert Workman

A warm but disturbing story of a dysfunctional family over half a century of social and legal change – a homage to the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offenses Act.

Mid-fifties Barry lives in the house in which he was born. While his mother is away on unfinished business he’s invited estate agent Skinner over for a valuation.

It’s dark, rainy and oppressive but Skinner’s ready wit and salesman’s patter casts a ray of sunshine into the decaying property. They chat, swap life stories – the worldly Skinner, whisked off to Australia as a baby, “Dad drunk himself to death”, abused by the Christian Brothers; Barry, credulous, buttoned up, “I’m not the hair letting down type”, lonely. Barry opens up “You’re surprisingly sensitive...for an estate agent.”

Skinner (deftly played by Adam Garcia) is a part-time, equal opportunities gigolo and Barry becomes a cash customer.

This is the first of many surprises in this warm but disturbing story of a dysfunctional family over half a century of social and legal change – a homage to the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offenses Act.

You’d think decriminalising homosexuality would be a relief to Uncle Harry and family friend Charles played with an intimidating loucheness by the excellent Philip Bretherton and Hugh Ross. But their shared shadow world seems too ingrained to be easily abandoned.

Switching between decades, we first meet twentysomething Isabella (Bryony Hannah) as she and husband Basil (an understated Paul Higgins), invite Harry and Charles over for pre-restaurant drinks.

All are dressed to the nines; Isabella is all innocence and optimism, carried away with the idea of marrying a doctor and pregnant with future son Barry (also played by Higgins).

The final scene is horrible and sad. Kevin Elyot’s dialogue is foot-stompingly funny, economical and cuttingly brutal. The motif of a house decaying with its occupants isn’t stretched, however several scenes grate and belief is not suspended. Shocking admissions should come singly and not in seamless, unchallenged pairs.

This is a valediction for My Night With Reg playwright Elyot who died in 2014. He would have enjoyed Monday evening.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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