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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Coming Clean
Trafalgar Studios   January 2019

Tony and Greg are about to reach their fifth anniversary together and Tony (Lee Knight) has a great idea how to celebrate.

They will have a candlelit supper prepared and served by out of work actor Robert (Tom Lambert) who gets by on work as cleaner and cook.

But Greg (Stanton Plummer-Cambridge) seems less keen on the idea and distinctly irritated by Robert’s presence.

This central triangle, along with the raucous banter between Tony and his camp friend William (Elliot Hadley) that opens Kevin Elyot’s play, leads you to expect a lively, if light romantic comedy exploring questions of fidelity and so-called open relationships.

However, first performed in 1982, it also gives us a glimpse of a persecuted group in transition. Homosexuality had only been partially decriminalised fifteen years before. To be gay was still to be an outsider.

William’s freedom to choose partners expresses itself at public discos and the more furtive cottaging that harks back to prohibition days.

When the danger of taking a stranger home is illustrated by a beating, the reluctance of these men to report it to the police remind us that “legality” didn’t mean equal support from the system in defence of certain rights.

Yet there are things that must have surprised in 1982 and point to a better future. Tony’s family send cake for Gregg and Gregg’s mother phones to say she is looking forward to him visiting with his partner Tony.

This is a fast paced funny show with fine performances. There is, in particular, a real chemistry between Lee Knight and Elliot Hadley as their characters swap stories and jokes.

If all this had the makings of an entertaining situation comedy, it also gives us a good sense of the complicated difficulties a group of men were having in defining the way they should care for each other in a society that had only just grudgingly acknowledged they exist.

Keith McKenna

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Review -  Coming Clean - Trafalgar Studios 2019

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