My Night with Reg: Review by Becky Carter

IT is a crying shame that David Kirk’s superb studio production of My Night with Reg had such a short run - just three performances for the sell-out audiences lucky enough to have grabbed tickets. Set in Guy’s flat, in the late eighties, against a sound scape of Wham, Billy Joel and Spandau Ballet, the play intrudes upon the lives of six men, their loves and lusts.

With decorator Eric (Elliot Benn) still on the scene, stripped to the waist with brush in hand and Walkman on, the scene seems not quite ready for an intimate soiree to be hosted by Guy, (Mark Simister). John (Damien O’Keeffe) has arrived early and Guy is fussing around offering drinks and nuts - the first laugh of the evening.

The party starts agonisingly; the conversation is stilted. Guy had only dreamed of John’s presence and clearly hasn’t mentally prepared for the possibility of having the object of his long held-desire being in touching distance. Guy’s discomfort is palpable and entirely relatable - all of those imagined conversations and declarations, which turn to sawdust on the tongue, are evident here. It’s a relief for all when Daniel (Ted Oxley-Kirk) bursts into the scene. Brash and vulgar he offers toasts to ‘Gross Indecency’ and ‘Sodomy’ and regales the company with tales of brief encounters on the heath as well as sharing news of his long term lover, the eponymous ‘Reg’. When John reveals that he ‘bumped into’ Reg the night before, intrigue develops.

The next scene is more sombre - Reg is dead and Benny, Daniel, John and Guy are scared – the ‘bogey man’ that got their friend could well be coming for them – if not because of their liaisons with Reg then because of another night with another man. It is interesting that in a play which has at its core the nightmare which was/is AIDS, that it is never mentioned by name at all.

The play encompasses at least fifty shades of gay; characters Benny and Bernie are an established couple – Bernie (Wander Bruijel) is handsome, tall and generally monogamous; Benny (Colin Waterman) is a rough speaking Glaswegian bus driver, rather less devoted to his partner. Most of them have had a thing for or with one of the others, all except for Guy whose unrequited love for John has mostly precluded other relationships, that and his fear for anything less than safe. It is a sad irony then that his should be the next funeral.

It was a privilege to watch the six powerful performances given by this excellent cast. Mark Simister’s performance as Guy is touching and tragic, transmitting tangibly the agonies of longing and hopelessness. Damien O’Keeffe, as John, switches beautifully between disinterest in Guy’s love and deep sadness when his grief for his secret lover Reg must go unnoticed and Elliot Benn thoughtfully reveals much as the young man on the scene with a different outlook to his future relationships.

This was a brave and unflinching look at the gay community’s sexual liberation and subsequent wing clipping by the terror of AIDs. A fitting tribute indeed to the author Kevin Elyot. Bravo Ilkley Playhouse.