A beautifully observed study of friendship, longing and betrayal is how you could describe Kevin Elyot’s groundbreaking 1994 play My night with reg, revived in a superlative new production at the Donmar warehouse which is directed by Robert Hastie.
The action is set in the 1980s against the background of mounting fear of Aids. We are in the new flat of house proud Guy, who has invited two of his former university friend now in their mid thirties, to a housewarming party. He always had a crush on John, a rich, charismatic, ex public school boy, but Guy has lived a life of almost complete chastity and ironically, it is a past brief sexual encounter that turns out to have tragic consequences. Needless to say Guy’s hopes of romance come to nothing for John has just begun an affair with Reg, the long term partner of his best friend Daniel the other guest at the house.
One of the play’s great strengths, as in waiting for Godot, is that we never actually get to meet the eponymous but elusive pivotal character, Reg whom it transpires dies of an Aids related disease. Over the course of the three meetings between the distressed male friends we learn about their densely interwoven relationships which are suffused with camaraderie and yet also with deception and nagging pain of concealment.
Director Robert Hastie captures the constantly shifting moods with great Élan, moving effortlessly between laughter and piercing moments of deeper emotion. Indeed behind all the exuberance lurks sadness and unease.
The evocative design by Peter McKintosh depicts Guy’s fastidiously tidy home in meticulous detail complete with a conservatory onto which the rain relentlessly pours.
But it is the superb performances that really make this funny, bittersweet comedy seem so fresh and poignant. Johnathan Broadbent perfectly conveys the lonely pain of Guy, the plain reliable friend in whom everyone carelessly confides. Julian Ovenden plays John with a confidence and charm that never quite manages to hide a sense of life’s emptiness while Geoffrey Streatfield captures camp humour and devastating grief of Dan as he mourns his faithless lover and at his hest when he dances and sings to David Bowie’s Starman. Strong support is provided by Richard Cant and Matt Bardock as a bickering couple and Lewis Reeves as a young Brummie decorator who observes the older men’s tangled love lives with a mixture of confusion and compassion
It is a great shame that Playwright Kevin Elyot will not get to see this triumphant revival as he died after a long illness shortly before rehearsals began.
Runs until September 27th
Box office: 0844 871 7624Last modified: April 7, 2021