My Night with Reg

My Night with Reg

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It is 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality and over 30 years since the gay community on both sides of the Atlantic was devastated by the outbreak of Aids.

It would be easy to describe My Night with Reg as a play about Aids, but that would do it scant justice. Though mortality runs through the piece like a dark thread, the play is often wickedly funny as well as deeply affecting.

One of author Kevin Elyot’s favourite lines in Shakespeare was “To move wild laughter in the throat of death” and that is exactly what he achieved in this play. Somehow the comedy only throws the work’s sense of grief and guilt into sharper focus. The action is set in the new flat of the house-proud Guy who, at the beginning of the play, has invited two of his former university friends, now in their late-thirties, to a housewarming party. He has always held a torch for John, a rich, languid public school type, but poor Guy but has lived a life of almost complete chastity.

The play is set in the mid-Eighties when anxiety about Aids was at its peak. The one person you would put money on not getting infected is Guy. Needless to say, his hopes of romance come to nothing, for John has just begun an affair with Reg, the long-term partner of his best friend Daniel, the other guest at the housewarming bash. One of the play’s great counterintuitive strengths is that we never actually meet Reg, but just hear about his sexual adventures with a host of partners. Indeed almost everyone in the play, it transpires, has slept with this lothario with the exception of the unhappily celibate Guy.

We can’t give too much away, as surprise is of the essence here, but the drama's four-year time span is structured with formidable skill, and turns on a sixpence between laughter and piercing moments of deeper feeling. The Wildman Studio is the perfect, intimate setting to capture the play’s constantly shifting moods with great élan in Guy’s fastidiously tidy home. It is a shame that Elyot is no longer around to see just how well his play holds up 20 years on.

Presented by special arrangement with Nick Hern Books


This play contains adult language and nudity