Until the award-winning My Night With Reg premiered at the Royal Court in 1994, the most prominent plays on the theme of AIDS had been imported from America. Kevin Elyot’s response to the epic swathe of Angels in America and the anger of The Normal Heart was to fashion this tightly woven, distinctly British comedy of manners, where the real danger was actually a lack of dialogue where the subject of AIDS was concerned.
This current production, directed by the Donmar’s trainee associate director Robert Hastie, is the first major revival in the West End and being set almost a decade before it was written, it survives the ravages of time rather well. Peter McKintosh’s set hints rather than screams of period detail and the glories of the British summer are perfectly recreated by Water Sculptures. Hastie’s staging may suffer a few sightline problems but the pace and pathos hit home in equal measure to mark a promising West End debut as director.
Hastie is undoubtedly blessed with a strong cast, who capture the spirit of both friendship and fear that eventually pervades the play. Jonathan Broadbent as the diffident Guy delivers the agonies of unrequited love with excruciating accuracy, made all the more palpable beside the easy charm of Julian Ovenden’s attractive John and Geoffrey Streatfeild’s sublime turn as boisterous Daniel.
Richard Cant as Bernie and Matt Bardock as Benny make the perfect bickering odd couple, while Lewis Reeves is gently amusing as Eric, the refreshing if doomed voice of youth amid the turmoil of these middle-aged lives.
- Donmar Warehouse, London
- July 31-September 27, PN August 5
- Author: Kevin Elyot
- Director: Robert Hastie
- Design: Peter McKintosh set, Paul Pyant lighting, Gregory Clarke sound, Alistair Coomer casting
- Technical: Anna Anderson production manager, Sunita Hinduja company stage manager, Fran O’Donnell deputy stage manager, Angie Burns costume supervisor
- Cast: Julian Ovenden, Jonathan Broadbent, Lewis Reeves, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Richard Cant, Matt Bardock
- Producer: Donmar Warehouse
- Running time: 1hr 50mins