My Night With Reg was Kevin Elyot’s breakthrough play and is widely considered to be a ‘gay classic’ after its 1994 premiere won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and brought discussions around HIV to the spotlight. The Turbine Theatre is continuing this legacy of excellence with a top-tier production which remains important, engaging, and relevant in 2021.
The titular character never actually features onstage and instead, the piece revolves around Guy, who invites a number of his gay friends to his (sparsely attended) flat-warming party. We then follow the group of men as their lives grow further intertwined over the next few years. Whilst My Night With Reg is billed as a comedy, and it definitely delivers on the laughs, Elyot certainly knows how to raise the stakes throughout, as dramatic secrets, buried history and unspoken feelings weave an intricate web of the characters’ intimately connected lives.
The overlapping sexual exploits within the group fuel the drama which informs much of the second act, but they are also very relevant to the looming threat of infection which lingers on the edge of many conversations, without ever being the central topic. This is one of the most interesting features of this play, in comparison to other recent works rooted in the same time period; that HIV is never named nor directly addressed, yet the impact it has on the character’s lives is paramount.
The entire cast should be commended for their fantastic performances, with every actor imbuing their role with buckets of character, comedic timing, and heart. In particular, Gerard McCarthy is a delight to watch as he effortlessly embodies Daniel’s camp and affectionate persona and lifts the energy whenever he enters the room. Also, Paul Keating as Guy does a stellar job at bringing grit and sincerity to an unrequited love storyline which could probably feel somewhat bland were it not for the unwavering dedication Keating displays.
The set design for My Night With Reg is stunning and you can easily pass the time before the show inspecting each detail. The flat is gorgeously cluttered with plants and shelves upon shelves of books, bottles, records and cassettes, which perfectly root the piece in its 80’s setting. From the quirky art to the (now) retro edition of Gay Times on the bookshelf, so much thought has gone into the visual presentation of the space and it really pays off.
An older couple could be heard remarking after the show that My Night With Reg is now a ‘period piece’, which could be considered true; however, this story still has a lot to offer a modern audience. A lot of care and attention has gone into this production; breathing new life into the iconic script, justifying its return to the stage, and making this a must-see revival.
My Night With Reg is playing The Turbine Theatre until 21st August. For more information and tickets, see The Turbine Theatre’s website.