Get Up Close and Personal with Theatre Calgary

Pasta al Pomodoro By Alessio Sbarbaro via Wikimedia Commons.

Explore big ideas in intimate settings with Theatre Calgary's tc UP CLOSE.

by Jenna Turk

Imagine sitting onstage for a performance at the Max Bell Theatre: You see the actors sweat, you feel their energy radiating and you can almost hear their hearts beating. That’s the kind of experience you’ll have with “tc UP CLOSE,” a program that places the audience in the middle of the action. It’s new initiative that complements the hallmarks of Theatre Calgary – high-quality talent and a first-class experience – with the added thrill of being up close with the performers. 

Theatre Calgary steps out of the Max Bell Theatre and into the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre with its inaugural tc UP CLOSE production of David Hare’s Skylight. Set on a cold London evening, Skylight tells the story of reunited lovers from vastly different worlds. At once intensely personal and startlingly confrontational, this intimate play is the perfect opening production for tc UP CLOSE.

With only 150 seats, the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre will be reconfigured to represent a 1990s-era shabby northwest London flat. The flat is the rented home of Kyra, a passionate 30-year-old teacher working in one of the city’s poorest districts. The audience will sit among her books, feel the heat of her cheap plug-in heater, and even smell her cooking. 

A notable element of Skylight is its nod to theatrical realism: Kyra actually makes spaghetti onstage (there are no fake tomatoes here). The warm aroma of pasta and fresh tomato sauce will fill the theatre just as though we’re actually over for dinner at Kyra’s. Warning: Do not come to the theatre hungry!

The set design by Hanne Loosen incorporates the pre-existing industrial elements organic to the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre, using the space’s quirks to advantage. Loosen fits Kyra’s loft bed into a natural crook in the wall and uses the theatre’s existing door as the entrance to the apartment. The cramped playing space and its odd steps, along with the fact that audience members are seated alongside the apartment’s stove and sink, enhances the inherent inelegance of a lovers’ reunion. Just as the pair must navigate a swirl of emotions, they must also navigate the space and each other in it – neither of which will be easy. Director Valerie Planche says, “It will be a challenge,” but she knows that the cast will be up to it. 

Playwright David Hare is famous for his deeply sensitive films The Hours (2002) and The Reader (2008), both of which delved into the inner lives of fascinating women. He is also known for his politically charged plays The Blue Room, which explored the grotesque decadence in civilizations, and Stuff Happens, his response to the Iraq War. Skylight beautifully marries the personal and the political; the lovers are bonded by their love, but torn apart by their differences. Lucky us – we get a front row seat.

Skylight runs February 14 - 25 in the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre.  Tickets can be purchased here