Thursday, 29 January 2015

'My Night With Reg' at the Apollo Theatre

We went to see 'My Night With Reg' at the Apollo Theatre, the West End transfer of the revival of the play from the Donmar Warehouse. We saw it twice last summer and loved it so were due a top-up on the joy and frivolity and sadness. I first blogged about it last year and it won a 2014 Plastic Bag Award so it must be worth seeing.

The play has recently been noticed for the poster which was turned down by the Transport for London authorities for showing a bit of bum (see right). The poster that's been published uses 'Ziggy Stardust' to cover the bum entirely and most demurely except we all know he's naked behind that record sleeve. I've no idea why Kevin Elyot chose Ziggy to embody his characters but we get a fun version of 'Starman' during the play.

Anyway, you know the story, right? If not then read my previous blog. It's the same story and the same cast just played a bit bigger to fill the Apollo Theatre as opposed to the more bijou Donmar Warehouse.

We never meet Reg but he's referred to constantly. He's Daniel's lover and, seemingly, everyone's slept with him apart from Guy but Daniel doesn't know. The play opens in 1985 with Guy's flat-warming party when three gay friends from university fifteen years earlier get together again. We have Guy, a copywriter who's just bought his first flat, Daniel, a flamboyant art dealer and John who lives off family money but who Guy fell in love with at university but has never told him.

There's Eric who's finishing off painting the conservatory while listening to the Police on a walkman (how novel - I probably listened to my first walkman at about the same time). There's also Bernie and Benny, the mis-matched gay couple who frequent the pub Eric is a part-time barman at.

 Three acts introduce us to the characters and let us see what happens to them in the short-term.  All scenes take place in Guy's flat with its nice, big sofa and conservatory. The first act introduces us to the characters and the second takes place at the wake after Reg's death that Guy hosts and the tales about Reg start spreading. The third act takes place after Guy dies and leaves his flat to John. There's a lot of death in the play but it's really funny - even I laughed out loud a few times.

There's a difference between a Donmar theatre audience and a West End audience. The Donmar audience was middle-aged male dominated but the Apollo was more representative, particularly with some older couples who possibly saw the original production in the '90s. I liked the couple in their 70s in front of me laughing along to the rude jokes and the old folks discussing the 'gay plague' and people they knew at the end as we all left. The play brings people together. It's a shared history in some ways.

It was nice that we saw the same cast as at the Donmar. Jonathan Broadbent as Guy, everyone's friend but no-one's lover, Julian Ovenden as John the rich kid and Geoffrey Streatfield as Daniel, Reg's lover and art dealer with a jet-set lifestyle. Then we have Matt Bardock and Richard Cant as the mis-matched gay couple Benny and Bernie and, of course, Lewis Reeves from the poster as Eric, the painter, decorator and part-time barman.

It's a play of secrets and lies, of infidelity, of friendships, sexual mores and unknown consequences. What will happen to me?

I laughed on and off throughout the play, laughter alternating with moist eyes. The final scene between John and Daniel was particularly thought-provoking when Daniel said he had to leave because he was tired after a night of cruising on Hampstead Heath in the rain. John agrees that he can't sleep and that he's tired too but with yearning eyes that say there's more.  Is this John saying yes I'm tired so you can go so I can go to bed? or John saying I'm tired, join me in bed? Or John saying I'm tired, I think I've got it as well? I think it's the latter and that's sad. The 'plague' continues.

Perhaps Eric is the future? The young man who doesn't sleep around and won't let John seduce him. But he's also been seduced by Reg. So what happens next?

Go and see this play if you can - it's very thought provoking, particularly to anyone who lived through the 80s.

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