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Review: The beautifully bittersweet My Night With Reg at the Donmar Warehouse

20412_fullIt's the 20th anniversary of Kevin Elyot's gay comedy My Night With Reg and while medical science has subsequently made huge leaps in the treatment of Aids this production hasn't lost any of its bittersweet edge.

Set in the flat of Guy (Jonathan Broadbent) the play follows the lives, loves and affairs of a group of gay friends over several years as they adjust to life and the spectre of Aids. The eponymous 'Reg' is like Godot in Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, never seen but pivotal to the plot.

Guy is the cuddly, affable one and the least successful in love mainly because he has held a torch for John (Julian Ovenden) since they were students. John oozes charm and charisma, is independently wealthy and unable to settle down, disappearing for months sometimes years on end until he falls for the wrong person.

Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild) and John were best friends at University, swapping lovers and easily falling back into old jokes and teasing when they meet up. Daniel has subsequently settled down with Reg. The group is completed with Eric (Lewis Reeves) a young Brummie barman at the local gay pub and Benny and Bernie (Matt Bardock and Richard Cant) a bickering couple for whom domestic bliss suits one more than the other.

The script is laced with humour and wit and executed with perfect comic timing. In fact the performances are so beautifully nuanced and rich in personality the characters are a joy to spend time with and hard not to care about. At times it is like watching a masterclass in reaction which serves well both the comedy and ultimately the tragedy, in fact I often found myself watching for what was unsaid rather than what was being said.

Broken hearts, betrayal and unrequited love together with the threat of Aids lurking subtly in the background add an emotional sting in tale. In essence Elyot's mixture of the bitter and sweet under Robert Hastie's direction is what gives this its real currency. The human story of love, loss and friendship transcends time.

I never saw the original but I'm sure Elyot would be more than satisfied with this revival. So glad Poly nabbed us some £10 tickets so we can laugh and cry all over again.

My Night With Reg runs at the Donmar Warehouse until Sept 27.


Jonathan Broadbent was in Kenneth Brannagh's screen version of As You Like It in which Romola Garai also appeared. Romola, of course, played Mr W's best friend in The Hour.