My Night With Reg theatre review
My Night With Reg review
Jenny Booth heads to the Turbine Theatre, and finds much to admire in this tragicomedy
The words HIV/AIDS are never mentioned in My Night With Reg. But the deadly immunodeficiency virus that scythed through gay communities in the 1980s is the spectre that overshadows the action in this seminal drama. Matthew Ryan’s intimate production is staged in the Turbine Theatre under a railway arch at Battersea Power Station, and the rumbling of trains overhead for once seems to suit the action, accentuating the ominous sense of dread that builds towards the quietly devastating final scene.
This lurking horror is at odds with the cheerful setting in a cluttered flat where a circle of gay friends in London meet to party, flirt and get off with one another. You cannot help who you fall in love with, and the web of relationships is very tangled. The Reg of the title (who never appears) is the focus of a love polygon involving his mercurial boyfriend Daniel (Gerard McCarthy), his aloof secret lover John (Edward Corrie) who is Daniel’s best friend from university, and amiable, lonely Guy (Paul Keating), who has been hiding a hopeless passion for John for 20 years. Secrets, lies, deceptions and other lovers emerge from the woodwork, in a script packed with dramatic irony. As the action skips several years, the number who have fallen victim mounts, and the fear intensifies. The virus seems to strike cruelly and at random, often avoiding the most promiscuous and felling the innocent.
That said, My Night With Reg is a tragicomedy and there are plenty of laughs. Much of the humour comes via two of the smaller characters, Benny the bus driver, played with enjoyable, scene-stealing attack by the brilliant Stephen K Amos, and Eric the decorator, convincingly portrayed by James Bradwell as a likeable, naive character whose self-awareness grows. Be warned – with full male nudity the action is of an adult nature, but is never gratuitous. The two part Angels In America, recently revived by the NT, is often lauded as the original AIDS drama; My Night With Reg offers a wry and distinctly British but no less passionate take on the scourge of HIV.
My Night With Reg by Kevin Elyot runs at The Turbine Theatre from 21 July to 21 August 2021.
Main image: Stephen K Amos as Benny, photo by Mark Senior
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