Coming Clean, 3***, London

by Kevin Elyot
3 ***

The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN to 26 August 2017.
Tues-Sat 7pm. Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2 hrs One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7206 4443.
Review: William Russell 29 July.

A worth catching fascinating revival
Originally staged in 1982 Kevin Elyot’s first play has not worn all that well. Times have changed. While his portrait of gay life at a time just before Aids changed everything was a remarkable piece of theatre then it no longer packs quite the same punch. It was, however, one of the first plays to deal seriously and openly with homosexuality and this revival is well worth catching out of interest and because it is also very well done. There is no faulting the acting in Adam Spreadbury Maher’s production which launches a Queer Season at the theatre.

Jason Nwoga and Lee Knight as prissy academic Greg and would-be writer Tony, lovers in a five year relationship who live in a distinctly grubby Kentish Town flat and play the field as long as it is done outside the home and consists of one night stand, are impressive, although quite why they should be a pair is not altogether obvious, and Elliot Hadley as William, their extremely camp queen friend is as amusing as the role allows him to be. As Robert, a pretty young resting actor turned cleaner hired to bring some order to the flat which the ineffectual Tony seems incapable of providing, Tom Lambert provides both the necessary eye candy – there is the obligatory nude scene – and manages to create a character both naïve and predatory. Tom sees what he wants and gets it, upsetting the balance between togetherness and doing one’s own thing the lovers have created. He is the cuckoo in the nest, the Eve who created the need for those seatbelts.
But this remains a first play and it does have problems. Nothing much happens in the first half, and by the interval one has had more than enough of William’s high camp chatter and Tony’s waffling about the writing he never seems to get down to doing, as well as the pair’s endless nights out to get laid reported in too much detail. There is no great impetus to return.

But things do take a turn for the better, and although today the disasters in the second half can be seen coming a mile off that may not have been the case in 1982. Perhaps the best reason for seeing the play, Spreadbury-Maher’s direction and the performances apart, is that it looks at relationships and the problems of an active roaming sex life which Elyot was to develop so successfully nine years later in his best play My Life With Reg. It is the shape of things to come.

Greg: Jason Nwoga.
Tony: Lee Knight.
Robert: Tom Lambert.
William/Jurgen: Elliot Hadley.

Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
Designer: Amanda Mascarenhas.
Lighting Designer: Nic Farman.
Sound Designer: Yvonne Gilbert.
Movement Director: Jess Tucker Boyd.
Dialect Coach: Mary Howland.
German Language Coach: Helena Jackson.

2017-07-31 11:59:26

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