DramaLondonReview

Coming Clean – Turbine Theatre, London

Reviewer: Dulcie Godfrey

Writer: Kevin Elyot

Director: Andrew Beckett

As trains thunder overtop the arches of the recently renovated Battersea Power Station, the dedicated creative space of the Turbine Theatre now plays host to Coming Clean, a witty, gay domestic comedy-drama that tells a story of love, fidelity and trust in 1980s London. A mostly compelling watch that falters at points brings fresh laughs at others.

It’s the 80s and Greg (Alexander Hume) and Tony (Yannick Budd) have spent five (mostly) blissful years together in their artfully decorated London home. The pair bicker, discuss classical music, drink whisky, and entertain the enigmatic William (Sam Goodchild) and his debauched tales from London’s gay scene. But when handsome young Robert (Theo Walker), full-time out-of-work actor and part-time cleaner, enters their home, it puts to test the limits of their love, the ill-preparedness of their open-minded approach to fidelity and the sanctity of their home.

A faltering start sees the performers rush through some of Kevin Elyot’s dialogue, missing some of the humour that is present throughout. The production eventually warms into something very watchable, Theo Walker especially as the awkward, endearing homewrecker/cleaner combination providing many of the laughs with artful physical comedy and timing. At certain moments director Andrew Beckett is able to nurture something very convincing out of Hume and Budd as the bickering couple, their relationship palpable in its realism.

Elyot’s dialogue, under Beckett’s skilful hand, sets the decade with its gay cruising culture, homophobia and particular essences of sexual freedoms without being overly suggestive. Indeed, David Shields set design works in harmony with this sentiment, transporting the intimate theatre space straight into the 80s with elegant period pieces and furniture that give subtle hints without too many clichés.

In short, it’s very watchable; a classic tale of open-minded sexuality having its limits in a way that is unique to this story and doesn’t preach. Elyot’s phrasing brings unexpected laughs as well as genuine and honest depictions of long relationships and their challenges. The inevitable love triangle when Robert the cleaner enters the scene is pushed past a predictable formulaic structure and made interesting by what is left unsaid on the journey of Robert and Greg from strangers, then enemies, into lovers.

But there’s slightly too much left unanswered around the character of Greg, whose New Yorker stoicism is somehow turned into awkward indifference that makes him unlikeable and the whole situation eventually unconvincing. And then an undercooked resolution leaves the audience with a lot of questions, including the purpose of the story in general, and something slightly bleak in its resolution despite the comedy.

Runs until 20 April 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Compelling, if faltering at times

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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