Apollo Theatre, London
Written by Kevin Elyot
Directed by Robert Hastie
|Geoffrey Streatfeild, Jonathan Broadbent and Julian Ovenden
On paper, My Night with Reg could be a searingly witty sitcom written around six unorthodox characters, each with their own hilarious intricacies and tragic plights. However, the death of writer Kevin Elyot in 2014 sees the play’s more macabre and somber notes raise the inflexion, making this production more melancholic and disconcerting than just a classy revival of a now certified ‘classic’, modern, British comedy.
Not just an original gay play, Elyot lays bare (quite literally) the social and sexual manners of the titular Reg, who never appears on stage, though his seed, it seems, has been sewn just about everywhere else. Elyot’s gratifyingly outrageous and authentic dialogue is ignited brilliantly by Jonathan Broadbent who reprises his Guy, the probably-passed-it central figure, whose circle of old university friends come over for a dinner party.
Robert Hastie’s direction is delicate and nuanced from the offset. Not a glance or a line is missed as we are introduced to Geoffrey Streatfield’s dandy Daniel, the camp and frivolous dancer to David Bowie’s Starman with his long-time sidekick pal John, played charmingly by Julian Ovenden.
Newly in love Daniel is a bounding energy, which makes his demise to a mourning mess all the more poignant. The plot then begins to trace the long line of his beloved’s bed notches, which becomes a standing joke as an ever-entangled web of deceit and betrayal is found to be woven throughout the friendship group.
Meanwhile, Guy’s unrequited love for the coiffured-in-the-style-of-Hugh-Grant John is the most profound theme (alongside the infidelity) and is best exploited through Richard Cant and Matt Bardock, the brilliantly mis-matched hopeless lovers Bernie and Benny. This bold bittersweet comedy duo of the expletive loving brazen Benny who is more akin to a Jason Statham stereotype than the lover of conservatory-coveting Bernie, in turn described as “redefining boredom”. But one can’t help feeling for the softly-spoken Bernie as he dotes after the gregarious Benny and doubts the strength of his own relationship, before both confess to having bedded the apparently insatiable Reg.
As we move into the darker territory of the third and final section of the play, this lack of forethought and arbitrary irresponsibility threatens to take down of each them and following a key character’s death, Hastie’s direction, like the sex, takes on a casualness, with the play’s pace suffering as it lulls sulkily towards the curtain.
Arguably, the reason Elyot’s play continues to draw audiences is that the issues remain as pertinent now as they did in the 1980’s. Disputes regarding promiscuity, sexual politics and AIDS remain equally unresolved and enduring.
Runs until 11th April 2015
Guest reviewer Lauren Gauge