Thursday, 22 January 2015

Theatre Review: My Night With Reg

(Image: Johan Persson for the Donmar Warehouse website)

Hello and Happy New Year to one and all - I realise we're now twenty-two days into the new year but this is my first post of 2015 so I thought it shouldn't go unnoticed! I'm kicking the year off on the blog with another theatre review - namely, Kevin Elyot's rather suggestive-sounding My Night With Reg, a revival currently on at the Apollo on London's Shaftesbury Avenue. I went into it blindly having been invited at the last minute by a friend, and frankly I'm not 100% sure what I made of it. A melange of gay smut and heartbreaking poignancy,  my thoughts on it are equally as mixed.

Taking place entirely in Guy's flat in 1980s gay London, My Night With Reg follows a group of gay friends who have all at some point slept with the mysterious Reg who, in a rather Godot-esque fashion, never actually appears in the play. Despite this, his promiscuity is central to the story as we discover that all of the characters in the play have been affected by it in some way. Tensions rise as revelations come out and people are seen in a different light.

The play opens right in the middle of the action with little to no explanation which means you are constantly catching up, piecing together who is dating who and what each character's history is. I did quite like this as opposed to having a lengthy introduction bit at the start of the play and it held my interest by keeping me guessing. However, the lack of explanation makes for some confusion: I didn't even realise the play's story spanned over several years until I read the plot summary on Wikipedia five minutes ago! The cast as a whole is really strong and they all have good interaction with each other. Eric, a a young Brummie handyman played by Lewis Reeves really stands out and gives a convincing performance. I also felt so sorry for Guy (Jonathan Broadbent), rather reminiscent of The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, whose unrequited love for heartthrob John (Julian Ovenden) leads him to live a solitary life of thumbing through cookbooks of dishes for one. These moments are really poignant as they highlight the emotional turmoil Guy and other characters have endured for years, but Elyot also makes light of some of these issues to avoid it being too depressing. 

That said, considering it is advertised as a comedy, I didn't find it that funny. There are some comic moments but not enough to warrant the comedy description. The presentation of these gay men sometimes rings a little hollow as the majority of the characters seem to fit perfectly the stereotype of the gay man - effeminate, bawdy and flamboyant with little room for character development outside of these traits. Their behaviour is often so cringy and smutty that I felt like I was sitting there watching an orgy - definitely not one to watch with your parents. On the theme of unnecessary sexualisation, there is also a nude scene which seemed to me to be completely gratuitous to the story. It wasn't powerful in any way; it just seemed out of place amidst the rest of the action. However, all of my criticisms of it are more to do with the script rather than the actual production of it as I thought it was a really strong cast and a well-executed production. I'm just not a fan of your script Kevin, sorry.

So is it worth seeing? It's a really well-acted piece that has some heartbreaking moments. That's definitely worth seeing if you're willing to sit through the two hours of smut and sexual innuendos that unfortunately comes with it. In short, it's your call. 

It's on until the beginning of April if you're interested.

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