WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Tuesday 27 July 2021, running to 21 August 2021 UPDATE: Run extended to 11 September 2021
RUNTIME: 135 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
Written in 1994, the same year as film Four Weddings and a Funeral, comedy My Night With Reg could easily have been re-titled ‘two funerals and a housewarming’.
- Read on for reasons including why this awards-laden classic can stand shoulder to shoulder with The Boys In The Band
Reg is the story of half a dozen friends who gather at the London flat belonging to Guy (a nervous and effeminate Paul Keating) who is having his home redecorated by a young Brummie (played in his West End debut by a sensitive James Bradwell) and cannot muster the confidence to tell the rich rugby player he went to university with a dozen years ago that he has always loved him (a strong Edward M Corrie, pictured left above).
We never meet the titular Reg, who is much talked about, but at that opening party we discover Reg is the boyfriend of Daniel’s (an over-the-top Gerard McCarthy, pictured right above) but is cheating on him with Corrie’s John.
In the same way that Mart Crowley’s The Boys In The Band worked because it put up a mirror in an exclusively homosexual world and was authentic in reflecting back a variety of characters, warts and all, Reg makes for an engaging and entertaining visit to a world where HIV and AIDS loomed large.
We’ve written this year about how moved we were by Channel Four’s It’s A Sin and Reg has the advantage of covering similar ground but being written at the time and so having an eye as well as an ear for the period.
Author Kevin Elyot never quite topped the success of Reg which won the 1995 best comedy Olivier and we caught a revival of his Coming Clean at Trafalgar Studios 2 two-and-half years ago.
The revelation here is Keating’s Guy (Kenny Morgan, Arcola) who we knew had transformed himself from leading man to character actor but does so here in a way that is both funny (other characters consistently belittle him yet he does not challenge them not least when repeatedly bought books about entertaining for 1) and quite moving.
While his friends take Guy’s kindness for granted, we meet others in his circle including the aggressively sexual bus driver Benny (Stephen K Amos pictured below not in the starring role we assumed he would be) and his uptight boyfriend played by a gently hilarious Alan Turkington.
Reg boasts some self-loathing but it is nowhere near as dark as The Boys In The Band and almost 30 years after it was unleashed into the world can still tell us much about lasting friendship, infidelity, secrets, the ties that bind people but also the vitality of a shared humour.
The nudity is as unflinching as the self-reflection on show with 2 of the cast going full frontal and lending the production an intimacy, honesty and openness that feels well established.
It runs for a month at this boutique, Thames-side venue and could well transfer to the West End with its starry cast and appreciative audience ready to welcome it to the world and continue to wonder exactly when the titular Reg would finally appear.