Hastie’s production was met with critical acclaim at the Donmar Warehouse last year and has since enjoyed a West End transfer to the Apollo Theatre. Set in the 1980s in the midst of the AIDS crisis, My Night With Reg follows the lives of six mismatched friends within London’s gay community desperately trying to enjoy life in the face of persistent fear and tragedy.
The production is undeniably of commendable quality, though the play itself seems aged and perhaps uncomfortably out of place in 2015. The abundance of crude innuendos, for example, lends to the play’s feeling unsuitably farcical at times, while the horrors of the AIDS epidemic thankfully have much less a presence in today’s London.
We are immediately presented with Peter McKintosh’s detailed set: a to-scale living room set alone in the middle of the Apollo’s stage, the remainder of which being only bare blue walls. This setup appears somewhat odd, with the entire performance taking place within the confines of a room dwarfed by a sea of blue dead space - in fact I must admit that at one point I was wondering whether this was to signify that the men were actually trapped in some form of purgatory. The room itself is, however, as warm and wonderfully detailed as you would expect stylish Guy’s (Jonathan Broadbent) living space to be. No part of the room is neglected either, with every component down to the magazine bin made use of at some point in a bid by Hastie to not create any more dead space.
The play seeks to explore the artful complexities of the six characters’ friendship; their strong love for one another, though with questionable loyalties, and their inherent loneliness. And it does so rather well - particularly in its examining of the intricacies of Bennie (Matt Bardock) and Bernie’s (Richard Cant) fascinatingly turbulent relationship. The inevitable and numerous clashes between Bardock’s boisterous hard man and Cant’s dreary, sensitive soul prove a noted source of laughter in the audience. The pair provide more than comedy value, though, often making for a sobering reminder of the underlying tragedies in their respective lies.
Julian Ovenden as John and Geoffrey Streatfeild as Daniel create a beautiful case study for poisoned friendships, the duo’s own defined by its paradoxical combination of loyalty and betrayal that is most apparently realised in their bittersweet rendition of David Bowie’s Starman.
As the story progresses, each of the men, even including young hired decorator Eric (in a solid performance by Lewis Reeves), share a dark secret with Guy that links each of them to the faceless Reg. Here, the play is almost overly farcical, and paired with the relentless innuendos and toilet humour, becomes markedly unbalanced, diluting the otherwise meticulously-crafted relationships between the characters.
Overall My Night With Reg is a marvellously produced and fantastically acted show, though it suffers from dated humour that only serves to dampen such strengths.
My Night With Reg review: ★★★☆☆
Please note: Opinions expressed on the londontheatredirect.com blog are those of the relevant contributors, not of London Theatre Direct Ltd, its owners or staff. London Theatre Direct Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by contributors.