The thing that has managed to stick with me most from my night of seeing My Night with Reg at the Donmar Warehouse in London is the audience reaction – the incredibly vocal audience reaction – that is a mixture of laughs, oohs and aahs throughout. For a play that focuses on gay men in the 1980s and the ensuing AIDS crisis, you perhaps wouldn’t expect to spend more than half of the play laughing out loud, but the bittersweet and sometimes hard-hitting play manages to evoke that response.
My Night with Reg follows the story of a group of gay men with complicated relationships that eventually intertwine and form an intricate web of sex, secrets and lies. The first man we met is Guy (who brings a number of tender moments to the story); he is a sensitive soul and is hosting a house-warming for a small number of friends. This is where the drama begins, and the bond between friends is challenged.
Guy has an unrequited love for his university friend John who is attending the house-warming party, and later reveals he is having an affair with the Reg from the title; Reg also happens to be in a relationship with John’s friend Daniel. This revelation paves the way for more surprises throughout the duration, particularly when the seemingly unsuitable couple of Bernie and Benny are introduced to the mix and have both also spent the night with Reg on different occasions.
Everything about the production of My Night with Reg works at a wonderful pace; there is no scene that is dwelled on for too long, similarly to how the more serious moments of the play are dealt with. Each moment intended to make an impact is given the right amount of time to come to fruition, and have its intended reaction, but is never over-played or overdone.
Time passes subtly, and it is only through the dialogue that the audience are asked to fill in the gaps and piece together the fragments. Despite the focus on the AIDS crisis, it is not the focal point, nor does it overshadow the themes of lies, secrets and love that create the complexity of the relationships. It does, however, cause most of the fear that drives the characters throughout the play to confess to their infidelities or worry if giving into lust for just one night is worth risking your life.
The acting from each cast member is superb; each equally strong is the other. But the most startling thing is also the look at the potentially positive impact withholding the truth can have in the appropriate moment.
My Night with Reg currently plays at the Donmar Warehouse in London and runs until September 27th.