David Hare’s 1995, award-winning play is a perfectly choreographed emotional dance sublimely performed by two of the country’s most gifted actors.
Him, Tom (Bill Nighy) a rich, successful restaurateur, her, Kyra (Carey Mulligan) his former employee now a teacher in a difficult East End school. Two people with a shared history, lovers for six years until his wife discovers their affair they meet in her grim, arctic cold, council flat a year on from his wife’s death. Still wracked with guilt and grief and seeking closure and comfort, so begins a subtle dance of opposing ideals and emotional attachment as the flames of their relationship flare up and burn out only to be re-ignited and extinguished again.
Each is a powerful stage presence in different ways: him, stalking panther-like and proprietorially around her grim council flat. Twitchy, edgy, flying off at tangents, veering wildly from one remembrance to another, one argument to the next. Her, still, contained and controlled.
This is a timely revival, Hare’s work, written in the 90’s is as resonant today as it was then. In these times of inequality Kyra’s speech against “right-wing fuckers” in support of social workers is met with rousing applause.
Special mention must go to Bob Crowley’s set design which is instrumental in setting the atmosphere. The grotty flat set against the backdrop of a high-rise council block, where windows illuminate and dim to shows signs of life and Paul Arditti’s sound design of crying babies, birdsong and car engines firing up are evocative.
This is a work of exquisite quality – a real gem.
Image: John Haynes