Twilight Song, the final play by the celebrated late playwright Kevin Elyot (most famous for his widely acclaimed play, My Night With Reg), has been given its posthumous premiere at Finsbury Park’s Park Theatre. The poignantly named script was written shortly before the playwright’s death in 2014 and explores the complex emotional implications of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. With this year commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation, the timing of the play’s release is apt: even if the script is, at times, a little wooden, it is a sensitive, humorous portrayal of societal repression and tension simmering beneath a veneer of middle class politeness.
Director Anthony Banks, former Associate Director of the National Theatre, brings the production to life with refinement and elegance. Set in the same North London villa across the summers of 1961, 1967 and the present day, Twilight Song charts the protagonists’ progression through three distinctive periods of history. The tale begins in the present day, where we are introduced to Barry (Paul Higgins), a gay man in his mid-fifties still living with his alcoholic mother (Bryony Hannah). Barry takes the opportunity of his mother’s absence to invite over an estate agent (Adam Garcia) and the pair begin an innuendo-fuelled flirtation, a less than subtle piece of dialogue that nevertheless elicits giggles from the audience.
We then jump back to the 1960s, when Barry’s mother has just married his father, a fairly bland-seeming anaesthetist named Basil (also Higgins- who carries off bothl roles well). Despite their recent marriage, tensions are already beginning to appear: Isabella is sipping gin and there is an undercurrent of tension as the scene progresses. The pair are preparing to head out for dinner with Uncle Charles (depicted exceptionally well by Hugh Ross) and his illicit on-off former lover, Harry, played by Philip Bretherton- of course, given the time, the pair are still firmly in the closet. The unease that underlies the pair’s secret relationship is evident; their chemistry is one of the most successful elements of the production.
At only seventy-five minutes long, the production is succinct yet effective; though there may have been scope for further character development, the actors’ performances ensure that fraught family issues are still communicated with sensitivity and there is still adequate build-up for the twist at the end. Though hardly ground-breaking, this is an enjoyable, well-acted piece that is certainly worth seeing- especially for fans of Elyot’s work.
Twilight Song is playing at the Park Theatre until the August 12.
Photo: Robert Workman