Review: My Night With Reg
Donmar Warehouse, London WC2
Geoffrey Streatfeild and Jonathan Broadbent
There can be few things more poignant in theatre than the revival of a much-loved play being preceded by the death of its author. Kevin Elyot, who died two months ago, had taken a keen interest in this revival of his 1994 bittersweet comedy about gay life under the tyranny of Aids.
Its uninterrupted 95 minutes takes place in a living room where Guy (Jonathan Broadbent) hosts a reunion of friends, mostly from his university days. But, although the setting is conventional, the play's structure is anything but. And without giving too much away, part of its genius is the way it keeps its audience off-balance as events unfold.
The core of the gathering is Guy and his former fellow students John (Julian Ovenden) and Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild). Now in their late thirties, their reminiscences - including those about John and Daniel's rampant sex life - blend with a starker present. Guy is in undeclared love with John, while John's relationship with his best friend Daniel has been painfully complicated by an affair with Daniel's boyfriend - the eponymous Reg, who is perhaps the cleverest of Elyot's characters. Though unseen, his effect on those in the play is profound. And although the witty banter gives way to darker themes of loneliness, unrequited love and death, Elyot only ever writes with a whip-smart wit and feather-lightness of touch.
It's a beautifully acted evening with Streatfeild outstanding as the scandalously rude Daniel with Richard Cant and Matt Bardock as the effete Bernie and his tough, philandering boyfriend Benny delivering one of the more entertaining double acts I've seen in a while. It's a fair bet that had Elyot been around to see the show, he would have left feeling that the Donmar had done him proud.