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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Apollo


  Julian Ovenden, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Jonathan Broadbent/ Ph: Elliott Franks

There can be no doubt that the template for Kevin Elyot’s breakthrough 1994 bittersweet comedy My Night with Reg was Marc Crowley’s self-lacerating gay trailblazer The Boys in the Band. Written 26 years earlier, Crowley’s landmark play brought together a cross-section of gay New York men as they celebrated the birthday of their bitter, self-hating host.

The uninvited guest at that particular gathering was the encroachment of age. Elyot’s uninvited guest is AIDS rather than age, and although the subject isn’t addressed head-on, its presence is felt throughout.

My Night with Reg, which has transferred from the Donmar to the West End, is set in the early 1980s in the home of the domesticated Guy (Jonathan Broadbent), a rather physically unprepossessing but endearing man in his early 40s for whom even an affectionate cuddle would fill the aching emotional gap at the centre of his life.

Though the paint has, literally, not yet dried – a local lad is still putting some finishing touches to the woodwork on the porch – Guy is throwing a house-warming party and has invited a few of his friends to celebrate, including John (Julian Ovenden), a dazzlingly handsome jock from his university days. Charming, laid-back, very rich and very and self-obsessed, John is too pre-occupied with himself to realise that poor Guy has been in love with him ever since they appeared in a student production of The Bacchae. At some point Guy comes close to finding the confidence to declare his love for John, but the moment quickly passes – which is just as well, as John lets it be known he is in love with Reg.

AIDS may well be the spectre at the three parties held in Guy’s house over the course of the four years the play spans, but so is Reg – who is never seen but whose presence is always felt for. At some point or another, he has flings with virtually every one of Guy's friends. As Reg, inevitably, dies of AIDS, the implication is that so will everyone else he has slept with, including his lover Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild), an outwardly frivolous joker inwardly consumed with sadness because of Reg’s infidelity.

Fleshing out the cast are a constantly bickering lower middle-class queen Bernie (Richard Cant) and his bus-driver lover Benny (Matt Bardock), whom I always felt had dropped in from a completely different play, as well as Eric (Lewis Reeves), the decorator from the opening scene who grows to accept his homosexuality without ever trading on it. Together with Guy, he is the play’s most appealing, least tortured character. But as he, too, has slept with Reg, albeit believing him to be someone else, his days, on this particular carousel of death, may be numbered, too.

The play, whose greatest triumph is the delicate balance it achieves between laughter and pain, is beautifully directed by Robert Hastie, neatly designed by Peter McKintosh and performed as a tight-knit mutually reliant ensemble by the entire cast. A really worthwhile revival.


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