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The Theatreguide.London Review

My Night With Reg
Donmar Warehiouse Summer 2014; Apollo Theatre  Winter-Spring 2015

Kevin Elyot's 1994 comedy-drama, here transferred from a run at the Donmar last summer, is a well-made play whose only limitation and this may not bother you is that it never really shakes us up or redefines reality the way great plays can. 

It has truths to tell, some of them disconcerting, but allows us to walk out of the theatre having been entertained but in no way changed. 

The play's characters are all homosexual men in their thirties and forties, which anchors this play in a very specific generation, who came out in the free-wheeling gay world of the 1970s and had to or failed to re-adjust to the age of AIDS. 

What Elyot discovers, and vacillates between laughing and worrying about, is that old habits die hard. Even those men who are in loving relationships can't resist a bit on the side, frequently asserting their commitment to their partners at the very moment of philandering, and small spoiler alert just about everyone seems to have spent at least one night with the never-seen Reg. 

Another small spoiler alert: two of the play's three scenes take place after funerals, and nobody really seems to learn. 

The characters are otherwise a cross-section ranging from the old married couple through the serial bed-hopper to the nice guy who's everybody's friend and nobody's object of desire. 

We are invited to laugh at their camp humour, their free-and-easy sexuality and even the poor shnook's frustration, even while we are also encouraged to feel sorry for him and worried that the group's musical beds mean that any or all of them could be the next to fall ill. 

And we do laugh, and we do worry, and so the play can be called a success, my only reservation being that the two responses tend to cancel each other out. 

Looking back at the body of gay drama of recent decades, I remember and can still feel the seething anger of The Normal Heart, the powerful way drama displaced comedy in Torch Song Trilogy and the feat of imagination that raised AIDS into a metaphor for all that was ill in the nation in Angels In America.

For all its skill and polish, I doubt that My Night With Reg will linger in my memory in the same way. 

I have nothing but praise for Robert Hastie's direction and for a cast led by Jonathan Broadbent as the nice guy and Julian Ovenden and Geoffrey Streatfeild as characters considerably more textured and complex than they first appear.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - My Night With Reg - Apollo Theatre 2015


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