Director: Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis
Writer: Kevin Elyot
Originally produced by the Royal Court Theatre in 1994. Kevin Elyot’s My Night With Reg is given a poignant, heart-achingly hilarious revival in this production by the Manchester-based Green Carnation Theatre.
We never meet the eponymous Reg, but Elyot’s darkly comic plot is built around the deceit and lies that have erupted as a result of the titular character’s licentious disposition in his living years. It’s intriguing to contemplate what has drawn seemingly half of the male population to this obscured character, though as his baffled acquaintance Guy unintentionally blurts out at Reg’s funeral that even the vicar says “he was a good f***” it’s clear that it was an appeal that was near insatiable.
In incapable hands and with an insufficient cast, Elyot’s sharp wit and tight dialogue would ring hollow. Directors Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis steer this production in a manner that demonstrates a command of subtlety, nuance and comic timing which many of their peers would gouge eyes out for.
Standout performances come from Simon Hallman’s Guy and David Gregan-Jones’ Daniel. The entire play is set in Guy’s flat, opening with a party where he greets John, an old university friend who he invited after bumping into him on the street after 9 years of no contact. John is then revealed, albeit not initially by Guy, to be the unrequited love of his life. Hallman’s mannerisms belie an endearingly relatable character riddled with the insecurities that we’ve all felt at one point when trying to put our most attractive foot forward.
Analysing and over-analysing every action, jumping to fill gaps in conversations, laughing that bit too loud and running that bit too quickly to fill up drinks. It works because it’s so fantastically human. Impeccable delivery and razor-sharp direction combine in an explosion of humour and pathos which warms Guy’s character to the audience like an old friend. And it becomes especially poignant to reflect retrospectively that for all his warmth and loyalty, that’s all Guy has ever been to anyone in his life, a friend.
Gregan-Jones, by contrast, is wonderfully vulgar and hilariously flamboyant as Daniel. His graphic tales of hedonistic romps on Hampstead Heath are beautifully contrasted with shows of vulnerability in the occasions where he lets his guard down, revealing that he too is fragile when confronted with grief and loneliness.
Green Carnation’s My Night With Reg is a thought-provoking observation of love, friendship, loss, celebration and regret. An emotional journey between several friends and their vulnerability in the shadow of the 1980s AIDs crisis. This production explores what it is to be human, you will laugh, you will think, and you will leave a richer person for having seen it.
Runs until Saturday 25 January 2019 and Tours