Review – My Night With Reg, Donmar

Tuesday 5 August 2014

My-Night-with-RegPhil feared that – like himself – My Night With Reg might not have worn too well.

He saw it at the Royal Court Upstairs when it opened twenty years ago and was something of a success, moving to the West End, winning both the Standard and Olivier best comedy awards and was subsequently turned into a TV film.

You can’t help but wonder if Kevin Elyot wanted to write a gay Abigail’s Party of sorts. It’s a tragi-comedy of manners and morals set partially at an intimate party complete with bowls of nibbles, copious drinking and smoking, an awkwardly uncomfortable character, sexual frustration, a chokingly funny fumbled seduction and all wrapped up in a (now) distinctly period setting (mid to late eighties) with glimpses of vinyl LPs and their sounds, plus like Abigail, we never get to see its titular character.

Reg was the good time had by (almost) all; popular among a circle of gay men who we meet at 3 different gatherings in the flat belonging to Guy (Jonathan Broadbent), a timidly lonely facilitator and confidant for the group.

Best not to say too much about the plot except to say that the shadow of AIDS hangs over them all, yet it is never mentioned by name. If all this sounds gloomy it isn’t. It’s witty, playful and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious, never bores and ultimately fiddles with the tear ducts.

The cast are uniformly splendid, impossible to single anyone out from the aforementioned Broadbent, Matt Bardock, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Lewis Reeves, Julian Ovenden and Richard Cant, except to mention that the latter is the son of Play School‘s Brian Cant and that his character is joyously boring. Oh, and we get to see Reeves and Ovenden fully-frontally disrobed, displaying bodies which can only be described as “worked on”. This led the elderly lady next to Phil to lean forward and point it out to her husband. Perhaps she hadn’t seen such a sight for years and presumably though he hadn’t noticed. Or chose not to.

Director Robert Hastie has made a fine and evocative fist of things. It doesn’t feel like the period piece that Phil feared it might. Plus it runs straight through without interval for a gloriously watchable 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Phil took a straight, male friend – who doesn’t really do theatre – along as a litmus test. He thoroughly enjoyed it declaring himself “Not bored for a moment”, but as a vinyl (LPs that is) afficionado took the appropriately Whingerish stance by wondering why the set’s record player didn’t have any speakers.

Tragically Elyot died, aged only 62, barely two months ago, which must have been around the time this revival was going into rehearsal. It’s an added sadness he’s not around to enjoy its success all over again.

My Night With Reg is now the Apollo Theatre until April 11th, for more information click here.






7 Responses to “Review – My Night With Reg, Donmar”

  1. johnmmorrison7 Says:

    Phil I saw the original production 20 years ago and didn’t find it as funny as I hoped. Perhaps this one is better? I haven’t booked to see it.

  2. Nick Says:

    I saw this a couple of days ago and can only concur with everything said in this review. I hadn’t seen the play before and had only glancing knowledge of the plot, so the nudity came as something of a (very pleasant) surprise. The cast were universally strong but Bardock and Cant were real standouts for me. Incidentally, I spotted Anthony Calf in the audience, one the original 1994 cast members (he played the Julian Ovenden role – character name escapes me!).

  3. Poly Gianniba Says:

    It floored me. The last scene between John and Daniel gives me goosebumps even thinking about it.

  4. Paul jerome Says:

    I too saw it 20 years ago,and didn’t really remember much of the play except it was enjoyable.However this production will stay with me for along time.Alas I will be long gone in another 20 odd years!A perfect night at the theatre.

  5. Boz Says:

    I thought this was terrific fun. Wise of them to keep the period details in place.

    It felt like everyone in the audience over 35 loved it – plenty of grey-headed heads were roaring with laughter like it was a panto. Having said this, there was a man in his late twenties sitting on the other side of the auditorium who clearly hated every second of it from the moment the lights went up.

  6. Graham Says:

    It would seem the chief enjoyment factor is nostalgia.

    The cast do well, but while the play may be important in the context of gay theatre – it really is not worthy of a revival.

  7. glenmorranjie Says:

    Saw this in The Apollo Theatre on 25 March. Overall enjoyable, funny and poignant rather than moving – I wasn’t aware of anyone in tears at the end. The £10 front row “dayseats” booked two weeks ahead were very good value indeed. Male nudity pleasing on the eye. Audience very mixed, not all gay men.

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