COMING CLEAN ☆☆☆☆
There was a time, long, long ago, when the possibility of gay marriage was not yet a twinkle in even the most optimistic gay mans eye. Indeed from the birth of the gay rights movement in the 60’s right through to the 80’s and the Aids crisis , gay marriage wasn’t seen as a priority. Instead there was a considerable debate around about what alternative forms queer relationships might take. Some were convinced by monogamy, some open relationships with rules and others believed in a more polyamorous way forward.
Coming Clean by late playwright Kevin Eylot originally opened in 1982 and brings these issues into sharp focus through the relationship of Tony (played with a feline skittishness by Lee Knight) who is a struggling writer, and Greg, a lecturer (performed with butch aplomb by Stanton Plummer-Cambridge).
Tony and Greg nip at each other in the way that couples do when they have been together a while and have started to take each other for granted. Perhaps that’s why Tony discusses his relationship problems at detailed length with his best mate William (hilariously brought to vivid, slutty, life by Elliot Hadley). William holds court like Bet Lynch in the Rovers Return – all leopard print shirt, permanently lit cigarette, and a northern accent delivering the best punchlines.
Into this cosy set up comes blond bombshell Robert, sporting a Princess Diana haircut (played by Tom Lambert with a fresh faced naiveté marinated in a frightening deviousness). There is a moment redolent of the Talented Mr Ripley, where he remembers being taken to the Covent Garden Opera House by his aunt to see Cosi Fan Tutte. One doubts he has ever been, or if he even has an aunt. He is the great disruptor and we have a feeling the couple’s five year anniversary celebration may not go to plan..
Studio 2 at the Trafalgar Studios is a notoriously cramped venue but designer Amanda Mascarenhas has still managed to recreate an authentic 80’s, lived-in, domestic interior which is as grubby as William’s exploits in the local toilets. The direction by Adam Spreadbury-Maher (Kings Head Theatre) brings the very best out of these young actors, especially Tom Lambert who makes his West End debut here.
The playwright, Kevin Elyot, would go on to write the award winning “My Night With Reg” but this was his first play to be professionally performed and already showed exquisite promise with the incisive demolition of human frailties and social mores of a group of gay men. A gem of a production.
REVIEW: JONNY WARD
Jonny Ward, Queerguru Contributing Editor is a drama graduate but has worked backstage for many years at venues such as The Royal Albert Hall, The 02, Southbank Centre and is currently at The National Theatre. He lives in Hoxton, London and is delighted to check out the latest, the hottest and the downright dodgy in queer culture for Queerguru. (P.S. He is currently single)