My Night With Reg At The Apollo Theatre
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Underneath the sparky repartee of My Night With Reg, something daring is still happening. 21 years ago, the play’s boldness was in staging the London gay community facing up to the 1980s AIDS crisis. Nowadays, it’s in admitting that a lot of the questions of sexual politics which that moment threw up remain unresolved.
Guy — gay, late 30s, single — is in a constant state of preservation, whether it be his flat, his record collection, or his old university crush. But as the world starts to confront the era-changing epidemic, he and his friends start to realise that no lifestyle can be cocooned; no quest for sexual empowerment untempered by risk and questions of agency.
The titular Reg doesn’t appear at all — and yet he has ‘been’ everywhere. And as the disease takes hold off-stage between acts, Reg’s relationships with the characters become clear. Kevin Elyot, who died last year, is rightly praised for the play's imaginative structuring. And right down to its choice of lighting, Robert Hastie’s production deserves plaudits for its depiction of time and age as insidious, harmful sicknesses.
Reg is more hilarious than all this might suggest. First put on at the Royal Court, this new production remains the very ‘London’ play it was designed to be. You’ve encountered its characters before, at least in the city’s classic fiction: there’s the fastidious, conservatory-coveting urbanite Guy (Jonathan Broadbent). His unrequited love John (Julian Ovenden) is a dilettante of the Hugh Grant school. John’s old sparring partner Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild) is a dandy who goes cruising on Hampstead Heath, while young Eric (Lewis Reeves) is an impressionable newcomer from Birmingham. Benny and Bernie (Matt Bardock and Richard Cant) make a frustrated odd-couple — the former a Cockney bus driver, the latter a sensitive soul who likes cinema trips to East Finchley.
On paper they could make a fully-fledged sitcom series, never mind two hours of theatre. The six exude confidence and, crucially, true connectivity in roles they’re reprising from last summer’s run at the Donmar Warehouse.
My Night With Reg runs until 11 April 2015 at Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES. Tickets from £15. Londonist saw this performance with a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 27 January 2015