Kevin Elyot’s comedy about a close-knit group of gay male friends living their lives in the shadow of the Aids crisis in the mid-1980s made quite a splash when it first appeared at the Royal Court in 1994.
Unflinching in its depiction of its character’s sexual proclivities yet with a goofily sentimental steak a mile wide, it delighted audiences and garnered Olivers for both its first West End transfer and a 2014 Donmar Warehouse revival.
The plot, with three farcical yet increasingly heartfelt acts set during get-togethers in the same pristine London flat over several months, has shades of Mike Leigh and Alan Ayckbourn. The dialogue by Elyot – who passed away in 2014 – mixes witty, naturalist bon mots with purposefully cheesy, Carry On-style innuendo to endearingly winning effect. It requires a cast of considerable vocal nimbleness and dexterity to really pull it off.
This production from Green Carnation has that in the form of Simon Hallman as Guy, the prissiest and least promiscuous of the friends. His rising incredulity at the extent to which the unseen Reg has inveigled his way into all their lives gives the production its strongest comic through line. He is matched by David Gregan-Jones as the gregarious, globe-trotting Daniel, who nails the character’s believable mix of bombast and dismay.
But the rest of the cast struggles with the dramatic gear changes and – while the strength of Elyot’s writing still punches through – directing duo Dan Ellis and Dan Jarvis struggle to give the piece the cohesive pace or feel needed for it to take flight.