If Britain’s National Theatre Live version of David Hare’s remounted play Skylight, comes to a movie theatre in your area, don’t miss it! It’s a live performance filmed last summer, and, unlike the live opera shown in movie theaters, it isn’t “live, live.” But it isn’t just a camera set up in the back of the theatre, either. There are wonderful closeups of the three actors, and given who the actors are, you want to catch every nuanced facial muscle.
Carey Mulligan plays a 30ish woman (her first stage role), Kyra Hollis, who teaches in what is apparently a rather desperate London school and lives in rather minimalist circumstances in a British public housing flat, of a type familiar from U.K. crime shows. She’s visited by a young man—played briefly and brilliantly by Matthew Beard—who is the son in a family she once lived with. The young man urges her to return to try to help his father, who he says is lost in grief and rage over his wife’s death a year before. The son departs, and the father arrives.
Played flawlessly by Bill Nighy, the father is a successful restaurateur for whom Kyra once worked, and the sparring between the two over why she left his home and her work, the new life she’s constructed, and what was and is between them carries the rest of the play. When it was first produced in 1995, Skylight won the Olivier Award for Best New Play. Many funny moments. Tears, too.
If you saw the two Masterpiece Contemporary thrillers starring Bill Nighy (perfect, as ever), chances are we agree they were terrific. If you missed them, Nighy plays MI5 agent Johnny Worricker, on the outs with his bosses and trying to bring attention to the shady dealings of Prime Minister Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes without much hair).
Needless to say, the Powers That Be don’t approve of Worricker’s activities and are seriously looking for him. In the first of the two dramas shown this month, “Turks and Caicos,” he’s chilling out on the islands when he’s spotted by a CIA agent played by Christopher Walken, with his typical opaque style, and you’re never quite sure who’s who and what’s what. Except that Worricker’s former girlfriend, Margo Tyrell (Helena Bonham Carter), wastes no time realigning her priorities and jetting down to the Caribbean when he needs her. In the second, “Salting the Battlefield,” Worricker and Tyrell are on the run, and doing a pretty good job of it, too, until family ties threaten to flush them out into the open.
These two productions are followups to 2011’s film with the same characters, “Page Eight,” which lacked only Bonham Carter’s Margo Tyrell. Somehow I missed that program when it was broadcast three years ago. Thanks, Neflix! What makes these dramas so good are the scripts. The screenplays and the direction are by British playwright, theater and film director, and two-time Academy Award nominee David Hare. Says Grantland reviewer Chris Ryan, “If it’s adult contemporary, it’s as good as adult contemporary gets.”