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Review: Twilight Song, at Park Theatre

With characteristic humour, premiere of the late Kevin Elyot’s last play examines the secret lives of a north London family

21 July, 2017 — By Howard Loxton

Adam Garcia and Paul Higgins in Twilight Song. PHOTO: ROBERT WORKMAN

THE late Kevin Elyot’s last play, here getting its premiere, starts in the present and then jumps back 50-odd years to offer a glimpse of the secret lives of a north London family.

Middle-aged Barry, redundant from his job in a pharmacy, has devoted his life to a mother who preferred her dead younger son. He has called in an estate agent to get the house valued while she is away for the day at a séance. Talk of present tough times leads agent Skinner to confide that he adds to his income by selling sexual services. Did Barry know that already?

The play then jumps back to when Barry’s parents, Basil and Isabella, moved into this house newly wed. They are about to take her uncle Harry and old friend Charles out to dinner as a thank you for help in buying the house. A beautifully written scene reveals that the older men had been lovers for years but now Harry spurns Charles’s advances.

As they all ready to leave, Adam Garcia as the guy Harry found to work on the garden, is silhouetted in the open French windows: a figure who will feature in all their lives.

That he also plays Skinner emphasises the possible connection between them.

This is a picture of very closeted queerdom that Hugh Ross’s sensitive portrayal of Charles makes convincing. Paul Higgins gives little hint of the masochist familiar with substances behind Barry’s weak façade, but he’s the believable son of his wet dad.

Bryony Hannah takes Isabella from happy pregnancy to frustrated wife and crotchety old age.

Director Anthony Banks has her pushing her Zimmer frame in near darkness to emphasise the fading of life’s light and as the play moves between time zones characters crisscross as their lives do.

Elyot has dug deeper in other plays: this picture of incomplete lives lasts only 75 minutes; but it’s not all about frustration, it is leavened by his characteristic humour.

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