Friday, 24 January 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: My Night With Reg - The Lowry Theatre, Salford

Written in 1994 by Kevin Elyot, this thought-provoking and witty play debuted at the Royal Court’s Theatre, before transferring to the West End and New York. The play was later adapted into a film, released in 1996. It is no wonder that this play was so well received, and why co-founders of the Green Carnation Company, Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis, carefully selected this production to tour with in 2020.

Set in the mid-1980s, ‘My Night With Reg’ tells the story of six gay friends, all in some way linked to the notorious Reg. The audience never meets this mysterious man, despite the play being named after him and all of the characters having varying relationships with him. Set in Guy’s flat (played by Simon Hallman) over different time frames, we are rewarded with both the humour and nostalgic splendour of 1980's London (largely thanks to designer George Johnson-Leigh and set construction from George Lewis), and also the poignant and tragic devastation of the AIDS crisis.

With a cast of six brilliant performers, this production really did feel like an ensemble piece. Their relationships between one another felt genuine and deep rooted. Simon Hallman’s portrayal of Guy as a shy, kind, giving character was beautifully innocent and really allowed the audience to connect with his character from the onset. Alan Lewis played the youngest character, Eric, who begins the play as the outcast of the group, only there to paint Guy’s flat. Being the younger character, Eric brings a fresh perspective on the world for the other characters, and was as enthralling to the audience as he was to the other five characters on stage. John, played by Nicholas Anscombe had a rather still and commanding nature, rarely breaking to reveal his true feelings. David Gregan-Jones played Daniel with a genuine humour and charisma, bringing much of the comic relief within the play. Gregan-Jones seemed completely embedded within his character, appearing not to act at all and giving a wonderful performance, taking his audience with him on his emotional journey. His flamboyant and positive attitude displayed at most times really brought the play to life. Bickering couple Bernie (played by Marc Geoffrey) and Benny (played by Steve Connolly) had a great relationship (or lack, thereof). Their clashing of characters and ideals created a tension on stage that was fascinating to watch. It must be said that all performers were wonderful as their respective characters, and the casting here must really be applauded.

Despite there being a total cast of six, there were rarely more than two or three characters on the stage at any one time. In spite of this, the actors commanded the stage well and held the audience’s attention, all 440 of them. This must have been no easy feat as, at times, the movement was very still for long periods. A brave choice from directors Ellis and Jarvis, as well as the play’s movement consultant, Jennifer Kay. However, as it occurred during the play’s more sorrowful moments, the stillness worked well in conveying this.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable piece of theatre, even with such a long second act (Act 1 was 35 minutes and Act 2 was 75 minutes). However, the length of each act didn’t bother me in the slightest, I did not once go to look at the time. The energy carried through the production by the performers played a huge part in that, as did the wonderful script itself. Is it no wonder that this play had so many runs from its release in the mid-1990s, and is still transferring so well on stage in 2020.

Reviewer - Megan Relph
on - 23/1/20

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