Kevin Elyot the writer of My Night With Reg, tragically died in June 2014, so he did not get to see the deliciously funny, as well as beautifully touching revival and west end transfer of his play to the Apollo Theatre.
The play is entirely set in the mid 1980’s, at the height of the Thatcherite-era, when anxiety relating to the AIDS pandemic was in the forefront of peoples minds.
The play’s three scenes take place entirely in the flat of Guy (Jonathan Broadbent), who is mild mannered and fastidious. In the beginning of the play we see him holding a flat warming party, where he has invited two friends from his university days. One is the suave and aloof John (Julian Ovenden) who Guy has always secretly loved, and the larger than life personality Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild). Impeccable and very detailed 80’s props and furniture, is a credit to set designer Peter Mckintosh who from the opening scene captures the decade to perfection.
The unlucky-in-love Guy doesn’t capture the object of his affections, instead John is having an affair with Reg who we never meet but is Daniel's partner. Broadbent’s gentle disappointment when he finds out from John about his affair is acted superbly by Broadbent. It becomes apparent, the extent of Guy’s love life, is just speaking to a man called Brad on the telephone or ‘house training’ him. As he describes almost in exasperation and embarrassment ‘It’s a fantasy for God’s sake I’m not entering him in to Crufts’.
Guy is the underdog that you really root for to be happy with John, who is played with such a caddish exuberance but also at times a melancholic tone by Ovenden. The predicament that Guy is in, knowing the tangled web of deceit that has been spun by Reg’s promiscuity within their group of friends and the consequences it will have, could make him a victim, but for the great farce that the situation has become.
A very contrasting dynamic of the obliviously dull Bernie and rough diamond Benny ( Richard Cant and Matt Bardock) works a treat. Their bickering so hilarious, that a special mention should be made to Cant and Bardock for being so engaging, especially Benny’s sharp comebacks towards his partner, with both harbouring secret infidelity.
The naivety of Eric, the young decorator as well as friend (Lewis Reeves), is very effective as he is not world weary but full of hope sharing a romantic view on the world and the events unfolding between Guy and his circle of friends. Reeves really gives a stand out performance which becomes very poignant nearer the end of the play, his backdrop being a glorious sunrise streaming through the conservatory with the sound of the birds beginning a new day.
Although there are moments of grief and despair (most notably shown by Geoffery Streatfeild as the otherwise animated Daniel), the director Robert Hastie makes the great humour and charm of each of the characters be the driving force of this incredible play. My Night With Reg makes you wonder the fate of many of its characters long after having the pleasure of watching it, which is definitely the sign of not only an impressive production, but a welcome revival.
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