Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

My night with - no, not Maud - Reg

On its premiere, Kevin Elyot’s Olivier and Evening Standard Award-winning comedy, MY NIGHT WITH REG, defined a moment in the lives of gay men and became an instant classic. For its 20th anniversary, rising star Robert Hastie directs the first major revival at the prestigious Donmar Warehouse in London's Covent Garden. 
At Guy’s London flat, old friends and new gather to party through the night. This is the summer of 1985, and for Guy and his circle the world is about to change forever.
Deliciously funny and bittersweet, Kevin Elyot’s comedy captures the fragility of friendship, happiness and life itself
so says the blurb for the new Donmar Warehouse production. I have just got 2 tickets for a matinee in September, as it is practically sold out already, as is only on for a limited season and the Donmar only holds 250 or so seats. It may of course transfer to a larger theatre for a longer run - the original production began at the Royal Court Upstairs, and then moved to the west end, where I saw it in 1997. 
I saw the original production, which was filmed by the BBC with the original cast, and I have just rewatched that (Thanks to Colin again for providing a copy on disk, from vhs). So it will be interesting to contrast with the forthcoming new production. MY NIGHT WITH REG may be an English version of THE NORMAL HEART (reviewed here recently - yes, at gay interest label). Not as in your face as THE NORMAL HEART, REG covers how an English group of friends deals with the Aids crisis during that same mid-80s era. The action is set in Guy's flat, Guy is a fussy singleton forever getting "Cooking for One" cookbooks as presents, Eric is the rather dreamy young painter doing some decorating. Guy is excited as longtime friend John is calling and Guy has been hopelessly devoted to him since their university days, stealing items of his like a used jockstrap .... Another couple call during the second act - seemingly devoted but the cracks soon appear as Bernie and Bennie soon being to bicker. There is also Daniel who flits in and out, he is the partner of Reg, who has died by the second act. It turns out each of them have slept (or at least had sex with) Reg (who never appears), unknown to each other. Did Reg die of Aids? Are they safe ?  
SPOILER AHEAD: Guy it seems is not, by the third act he has died (from having had unprotected sex while on a holiday when a stranger practically forced himself on him) - the others have to deal with that. Guy has left his apartment (rather nice and in a smart part of London) to John - who does not even want it. John, drinking a lot, is now in residence, Eric is still here - naked this time, as he seems to be having a desolutary relationship with John. He finally tells John how much Guy had loved him all along, and we see the suitcase of John's items - including that jockstrap - that Guy had kept .... its a rather sad, melancholy ending. John also has to deny he was involved with Reg when Daniel wants to know ...

The play was billed as a comedy originally, and I remember it being fast moving and funny on stage, but this BBC production, from 1997, is so slow placed it moves at a funeral pace by the third act, rather apt I suppose, and it drains most of the comedy out. It is still a fascinating piece, sadly the author Kevin Elyot died recently - see RIP label. He also did that BBC version of Isherwood's CHRISTOPHER AND HIS KIND, also reviewed here.. The BBC REG was directed by Roger Michell who did some interesting items like that 1995 PERSUASION which I like a lot (costume drama label), NOTTING HILL and the recent well-regarded LE WEEKEND.  The cast of REG are all exemplary having of course played it on stage as well: David Bamber as Guy, John Sessions as Daniel, Anthony Calf as John, Roger Frost as Bernie, Kenneth McDonald as Bennie, and Joe Duttine as Eric (Duttine is now the rather grubby Tim in our weekly soap CORONATION STREET, a total contrast to his Eric here. Roll on the new production.
As part of an annual 'gay season' we will be looking at some other BBC productions like THE LOST LANGUAGE OF CRANES, THE LINE OF BEAUTY, and a powerful episode of THE STREET, and French items PRESQUE RIEN and THE CLOSET, and maybe going back to those powerful items: Technine's WILD REEDS (LES ROSEAUX SAUVAGES) and Fassbinder's FOX & HIS FRIENDS - both reviewed at gay interest label, not to mention QUERELLE or PRICK UP YOUR EARS or PRIVATES ON PARADE and MAURICECHRISTOPHER AND HIS KIND and those Oscar Wilde films, then there is BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Sorry, I just didn't like MILK. The recent STRANGER BY THE LAKE and BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR are also reviewed (at gay interest label) along with CLOUDBURST which I liked a lot, and the delightful 1985 Mexican DONA HERLINDA AND HER SON.. There is also that recent GAY SEX IN THE '70S.What will I make of that ? or the recent CUPCAKES. Pity the 1986 tv movie of Graham Greene's MAY WE BORROW YOUR HUSBAND? adapted by and starring Dirk Bogarde is not available now ...

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