After the success of the revival of My Night With Reg in the West End over two years ago, renewed attention has been given to the work of Kevin Elyot who died in 2014 aged only 62. His first play, Coming Clean, is currently being staged at the King’s Head Theatre, while his last play, Twilight Song, is having its world premiere at Park Theatre. This final work shares much of the bitchy, innuendo-laced humour of My Night With Reg, with a sadness running through it of lives wasted. It flits between the present day and the 1960s, unpicking a family’s misery over half a century in a suburban north London home.
Twilight Song opens in the present day with single gay man Barry who, despite being only in his mid 50s, has given up on happiness and feelings, living a joyless existence with his mother, Isabella. Apparently showing an estate agent around their house, he turns out to be negotiating a rather different kind of transaction. The rest of the play goes on to reveal a hidden history, taking us back to 1961 and the early days of his parents’ marriage just before Barry was born. Along with a stop-off in 1967 at the time of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, we discover sad truths about the family, and those of a gay uncle, Charles, and his closeted friend, Harry, which resonate shockingly through to the present day.
Directed by Anthony Banks, the story canters along at a steady pace, moving towards a conclusion that smacks of melodrama despite its understated treatment. The 75-minute play is neatly constructed but stops short of making us care for the characters whose plights should be heart-breaking. Paul Higgins is good as both a buttoned-up Barry and his father Basil alongside Bryony Hannah as his mother, uptight and yearning for passion in her younger years, angry and bitter in her 70s. Adam Garcia has a charming allure as the sexually available but manipulative young man who enters their lives. Hugh Ross is touching and funny as the avuncular uncle Charles while Philip Bretherton captures the angst of being gay at a time of legalised intolerance.
While Twilight Song lacks the power of My Night With Reg, it is an enjoyable piece of drama that sharply portrays people – both gay and straight – who feel trapped by their circumstances and seek an escape that risks making their misery even worse.
Running to August 12, 2017