Writer: Kevin Elyot
Director: Matt Ryan
Kevin Elyot’s My Night With Reg is a shrewd choice to reopen the Turbine Theatre, a play in which the world beyond the walls of Guy’s flat is filled with danger. More than an AIDS drama, the context of this modern classic is subtly built around characters struggling with truth, love and the depth of their twenty-year friendship.
At Guy’s flat-warming party, old friends are reunited and the surprise arrival of John sets in motion a chain of events that in the space of just three years will change them all forever. The mysterious and promiscuous Reg is at the centre of it all, leaving a timebomb among his friends and a trail of broken hearts.
Elyot’s black comedy-drama deliberately keeps it titular character under wraps in a story built around lies and deception, primarily in long-standing relationships. To protect the groups and reduce the hurt, only Guy knows everyone else’s secrets, burdened with their guilt or pride while watching a whirlwind unfurl around him.
Matt Ryan’s production for the Turbine Theatre emphasises the chaotic comedy, making the most of Elyot’s punchy dialogue to weave a complex web for the unseen Reg. Preferencing the emotional consequences of the various dalliances over their passion, Ryan strikes a balance between the humour and experience of unrequited or at least unequal forms of love that colour this circle, and there is a contemplative, sometimes even ponderous tone that dominates the play.
There are, however, some pacing issues and while an early interval makes dramatic sense, marking a sea change in the action, it displaces the rhythm, ejecting the audience just as we are getting to know the protagonists and invest in their complex relationships. Likewise, the much shorter Act 3 feels emotionally redundant, not quite conveying the purpose of Elyot’s finale in expressing the personal and collective cost of the play’s events.
Paul Keating leads the cast as Guy, in some ways a mother hen figure who opens his home to the group and constantly fusses about food. But Keating also captures Guy’s loneliness, his fear of the bigger crisis outside and his insistence on taking the proper precautions – even if that means total abstinence – all the while wishing he could be more like his friends.
Edward M Corrie is a reflective John, often so buried within himself he can barely function and there are deep reserves of feeling that understandably appeal to others although they make him rather remote. Stephen K Amos adds a sharp humour as Benny whose antagonistic attachment to Alan Turkington’s Bernie is a little broader than the rest of the play, while Gerard McCarthy’s Daniel, in many ways the most betrayed, is a bundle of energy in his short appearances, the only actor to really suggest the rampant lifestyle they are supposedly living.
Not all of the characters get equal time in the spotlight although the duologue structure lends itself to intimacy, and while there is a feeling of camaraderie among the cast, there is little to suggest what may be holding these very different people together, certainly without the anchor of Reg or Guy to tether them. In the end it is probably the lies and Matt Ryan’s production is an interesting examination of long friendships tested by external events and unquenchable if slightly stilted desires.
Runs until: 21 August