Thursday, 7 August 2014

July in theatre: My Night with Reg (Donmar Warehouse)

I understand that this might seem a little out of place, but I like to write reviews about theatre and since the end of my schooling life, I no longer have the pleasure of punishing my fellow sixth formers by submitting reviews to the paper. I promise they won't flood your dash, so if it doesn't interest you, don't worry. However, if you do, read away. Writing reviews helps me consildate my thoughts on productions, so if you're also interested in theatre, I'd be more than welcome to have a natter with you about it too, on the occasional post, away from dresses and shoes and things.

20 years since the debut of My Night with Reg at the Royal Court, and its following win the next at the Olivier Awards for Best Comedy in 1995, have led many debating how well its revival at the Donmar Warehouse this year would be received. Much of its initial success in 1994 is credited to Kevin Elyot's honesty regarding the promiscuity of many homosexual relationships, at a time when the Aids crisis of the 1980s was still very much in the public consciousness. What resonates in this production is that the success of this play actually relies on the fact that it is not just 'a play about Aids', and more importantly to its playwright, Elyot, it is not just a play about homosexuality. 

Elyot personally resented My Night with Reg being hailed as a landmark gay drama, insisting that there was nothing inherently 'homosexual' about the play, besides it only featuring gay men. This is fiercely contested because the nature in which many of the men behave with one another does seem to  to be unique to homosexual relationships, but this is not to its detriment. Elyot's honesty is in part what makes the play so successful and enjoyable.

The poignancy of this tragi-comedy is that its tragedy relates to entirely human issues which are not dependent on gender or sexuality. It's exploration of unrequited love, the passage of time and the impact of deceit means summarising it as 'a gay play' is extremely reductive. It performs with a perfect combination of humour, which may be aided by cheekily sly references to many of the character's homosexual promiscuity, but also with a poignancy which relates to homosexual and heterosexual relationships alike. Aids is never mentioned directly, but as an implicit force it has all the more destructive and poignant an effect as the characters' lives seem to be in the throttle of the unknown.

My Night with Reg begins at Guy's flat warming and journeys towards its end with two time lapses whilst showing how the relationships of the group which first gathers at Guy's flat develops. Reg is almost no more than a trope, rather a Godot character, insofar as he is only ever mentioned and never seen, yet his actions have effects which reverberate throughout the course of all events which follow throughout the play.

Matthew Broadbent plays the genial, reliable Guy effortlessly to the effect of both comedy and sympathy, where his greatest achievement and hinderance is his affable nature. His two university friends, John and Daniel, are played by Julian Ovenden and Geoffrey Streatfield respectively. John is charasmatic and charming, whilst Daniel is vivacious and outrageously funny. The dynamic between Guy, John and Daniel is one which frames many of the events. Interestingly, both Guy and John begin as would be stock gay characters. Guy is generally unlucky in love and in love with John. John is a charming lothario whose regular visits to Guy's mirror would make it seem he is only in love with himself. Elyot transforms these characters so they are so much more that their stock character counterparts to be found in modern day romantic comedies. Whereas one continues sympathy for Guy throughout, John becomes an unexpectedly tragic character, whose constant primping seems to mask insecurities of self. The same is to be said of Daniel, who begins fantastically flamboyant and develops into a much sadder character. 

The performances throughout the rest of the cast are also stellar. Richard Cant and Matt Bardock play the mismatched Bernie and Benny. Cant's physicality and delivery is perfect for the meek, and admittedly dull Bernie, complimented perfectly by Bardock's superb comedic timing and bluntness throughout. Lewis Reeves as Eric seems like the endearing voice of youth, whose words are a refreshing combination of naiveity as well as  unashamed frankness.

Elyot passed away only some weeks before the rehearsals of this production of My Night with Reg, and it gives the production an added sadness that he was unable to witness how well audiences received it, yet again. The magnificence of Elyot's writing is in the fact it is not limited to its social milleu; My Night with Reg becomes an unconventional, bittersweet ode about, among other things, the longing for love.

Until 27 September. Tickets still available through the Box Office and the Barclays Front Row scheme. 

No comments:

Post a Comment