DramaLondonReviewWest End

Coming Clean – Trafalgar Studios, London

Reviewer: Margarita Shivarova

Writer: Kevin Elyot

Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher

This lively revival of Kevin Elyot’s debut play from 1982 gently dives one in the world of gay relationships, exploring the themes of polygamy, infidelity and love, the latter almost seen as a contractual agreement. The King’s Head Theatre production strikes a balance between lightness of delivery and the possibility of relating to the characters’ struggles in real life, thus making it a journey pleasant for the eyes and engaging for the mind.

The context of 1980s London’s homosexual scene is shown in its full palette from the hilarious references to disco nights, the spicy gossiping about wild sexual adventures through to the dark side – homophobia. Messiness, flowing dressing gowns and nudity suitably complements the story of desire and lust in an open-minded couple. Tony (Lee Knight), a young IT industry drop-out and a writer-to-be, and his long-term American partner Greg (Stanton Plummer-Cambridge), an established writer, both seamlessly put on the mask of a happy duo. That is only until an intruder in the face of Robert (Jonah Rzekiewicz), their new cleaner, joins the party. Convincing in his performance of being a novice to the job and innocent victim of his desires, Jonah Rzekiewicz partners well with both Tony and Greg on the timings and length of the inevitable awkward moments during the time they all get to know each other. Conversely, Lee Knight steps on leading the often fast-paced and shakingly honest comments much needed to complement the character’s emotion levels from sassiness through to passive aggression. The gradual increase of the dynamic and tension between Tony and Greg on stage does not necessarily steal the show delivered by Elliot Hadley as William, Tony’s best friend and even more favoured as Jürgen, the hilarious psychopathic hooker. William’s care for Tony, however, seems genuinely fuelled by the goodwill behind his meticulously portrayed character of the fool ready to jump on anybody fit for purpose.

Uncertainty and insecurity that can occur in long-term relationships are underlying motives that once revealed keep the audience expectant of a serious drama break-through. The couple’s agreement on sleeping with other people, but not more than once with the same person, has worked well for them. In defence of his character, Stanton Plummer-Cambridge brings forward physical strength and voice projection that can make the strongest objection step down. Lacking any appearance from William from the start of the Second Act until the end allows the audience to focus even more on the detail of Tony and Greg’s attitude to each other. Tears, laughs, and shouting complemented by the carefully paced use of the whole stage make the scenes of Tony’s dreadful discovery about his partner’s infidelity deeply realistic for the audience. Although delivered seamlessly, the beauty and perfectionism sought on every move and lay on the couch, for instance, could benefit from a little less of a polished effect in order to provoke a healthy level of unease in the audience. The way scenes transition, lighting and particularly sound are handled, well accomplishes the full image of the characters’ moods as well as what happens outside Tony and Greg’s living room. The latter in itself presents a living portal to the 1980s with the then stylish red coloured leather sofa, tall lampion, record-player and beige wall-papers.

Even though there is clearly a victim in the situation presented, it would be surprising if different sides aren’t held from members of the audience, whether this is for moral reasons, empathy or conversely belief in one’s freedom to act on their instinctive desires. The play wins namely for those type of questions, the undeniably good pinch of self-irony, and the attractive nature of the characters’ ability to cherish and exploit their own freedom.

Runs until 1 February 2020

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