My Night with Reg is the story of five gay men living in the 1980s. A mixture of comedy and poignancy, it uses humour to deal with some of the difficult situations homosexual men would deal with at that time, especially within the context of the AIDS epidemic.
The cast were fantastic, excellently portraying the different personalities such that the only real thing they had in common was their sexual orientation (and a liking for conservatories). Jonathan Broadbent in particular did an excellent job of playing Guy, a slightly nervous and OCD character who you cannot help but root for throughout the play. Richard Cant, Matt Bardock and Geoffrey Streatfield (Bernie, Benny and Daniel respectively) also played their characters to perfection, causing amusement at times and quiet reflection at others. Eric, played by Lewis Reeves, also created much of the comedy in the show. Perhaps the shock for me though was seeing Julien Ovendon as John. He played his part well, the overconfident man hiding his insecurities, but for me, his nudity (along with that of Lewis Reeves) ensures I will never be able to watch Downton Abbey in the same way again!
The show itself made you think. My initial thoughts when leaving the play were that it fulfilled an outdated and untrue stereotype of sexual promiscuity which is often associated with homosexual men. However, when discussing the play later it occurred to me that it must be taken in context- even if these ideas are not true now, they once were, at least to an extent. Life in the 1980s was very different, society was less accepting and therefore these people, who would have been on the edges of society, were unable to settle down in the same way that people are today. As a result this portrayal is true of the time it is set, making you consider what life would have been like.
Also in the 1980s was the AIDS epidemic and the play’s dealings with this were particularly commendable. Whilst AIDS was never explicitly mentioned it became obvious that this was the elephant in the room, just as it would have been in that time- perhaps acknowledging it would make its threat more real. In particular the fact that there were many loose ends left was perhaps telling of what it must actually be like to lose someone to such a disease. The distress at seeing loved ones waste away was made very obvious and the worry for those left behind was also plain to see.
The show was amusing, but not side-splittingly so, and it was also emotional but not deeply so. It was neither a comedy or a ‘serious’ play and I felt that sitting in the middle ground made it quite difficult for the audience to connect with. For me, I felt it was at its best when things became more serious. 2 hours without an interval is quite long and the pace of the show was sometimes slow and I also think the show’s title My Night with Reg perhaps spoils some of the comedy as, once it becomes obvious that there isn’t a character called Reg in the show (looking at the programme before the start of the show got me that far) it becomes quite predictable as to what the nights with Reg represent (although these nights are important to moving the story forward). However, the above, whilst perhaps a problem at times, also contributed to some of the nuances of the show which I enjoyed. Making links between beginning and end, leaving clues without being explicit, this appealed to me as it kept me completely engaged in the story.
Overall, I enjoyed my trip and, more than that, I enjoyed the discussion I had about the show afterwards. It’s very rare that a show makes you discuss such meaningful issues for hours afterwards and the way in which the issue of AIDS is dealt with is especially thought-provoking as you really try to put yourself in the shoes of the characters. This, combined with the outstanding acting made for a very enjoyable night at the theatre.
Review by Emily Diver
My Night with Reg
Apollo Theatre London
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.45pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm
Booking From: 17th January 2015
Booking Until: 11th April 2015
Important Info: Production contains smoking and nudity
Thursday 29th January 2015