The Turbine Theatre in Battersea has proven itself to be the home for important stories, particularly those that are LGBTQ+ themed, since opening in 2019. Past titles have included Torch Song and the life-affirming My Son's A Queer, But What Can You Do? They're at it again - this time reviving Kevin Elyot's 1994 play My Night With Reg.
Last seen in the West End in 2015, the play follows a group of gay friends as they deal with the ups and downs of life. All set in Guy's flat, the play consists of three separate scenes. Starting off fairly lighthearted, the tone gets more serious as the play progresses. While the name is never mentioned, the topic of AIDS is ever-present, with the characters talking about their concerns with the disease and more than one character succumbing to it. Fans of the recent series It's A Sin will surely love this play too which tells a similar story albeit in a different way.
The play features a cast of six, though they don't all appear on stage at the same time. The interactions they do all have are fantastic though with brilliant chemistry on display between all of them. Paul Keating steals hearts as the lovely but lonely Guy, Alan Turkington plays the sweet but dull Bernie while James Bradwell channels innocence and naivety as the sweet Eric. Edward M Corrie holds back as the complicated and often distant John while the brief time he shares the stage with Gerard McCarthy as Daniel are among the highlights of the show. The cast is completed by the legendary Stephen K Amos who has the some of the best one-liners as Benny. The seventh character of Reg is often mentioned through conversation and his links to all of the characters (even the vicar) though never seen on the stage.
The writing is what sets this apart from other shows. Full of wit, innuendo and clever lines, the conversation feels natural as opposed to things you wouldn't expect people to say. The relatability adds to the shows charm and allows you to feel like you are in the flat with the group. The brilliant set helps with this illusion. WIth designs from Lee Newby, it is an elaborate recreation of a a flat in the 1980s, it is full of details that allow your eye to wander to bathe in the richness of it.
Brilliantly directed by Matt Ryan, the transition between scenes 2 and 3 is a thing of beauty - not apparent at first, you slowly realise more time has passed and this isn't a follow up from the last thing we had witnessed. Cleverly and subtly executed, this was a testament to the creative team responsible for this production. The overarching theme of the fragility of life is made all the more poignant with the knowledge that the shows writer, Kevin Elyot, died in 2014. Themes of love, loss and things left unsaid feel all the more relevant given all the loss we have all witnessed over the past year.
As plays go, this is one of the strongest I have seen in recent times. A delicate topic is played out wit respect and in a way that never feels uncomfortable. The characters are so rich and varied that you can't help falling in love or feeling sorry for them. This is in part down to the fabulous writing but also the flawless characterisations that are played by our handful of talented actors. While extremely strong language and full frontal nudity may mean this may not be the most suitable show for the more prudish of audiences, this is an important piece that documents a part of history that doesn't always get remembered with the compassion it deserves.
My Night With Reg plays at The Turbine Theatre until August 21st. Tickets from https://www.theturbinetheatre.com/whats-on/my-night-with-reg
Photos by Mark Senior