Coming Clean is Kevin Elyot’s love letter to 80s hedonism in many ways, refreshingly frank, open, warm and funny about the reality of gay relationships at the time.
Tony and Greg are approaching their fifth anniversary together. Both are writers, but Greg, a New Yorker and a teacher, has achieved more success. In order to kickstart his only storytelling, Tony engages a cleaner, a resting actor and unassuming lad from Salford called Robert.
Together with William, a neighbour who wraps his sensitive self in a protective blanket of bravado and campness, these are the men who interact throughout the bulk of this play. They are friends, lovers, comrades in bars.
Musical cues of the period both complement and comment on the action, and the care given to the set detail by Amanda Mascarenhas takes us back to those days nearly forty years ago where sex was bareback, cottages were thriving, and there was not – yet – the fear of illness that would soon cast a shadow over the lifestyle and norms depicted.
Tony and William love clubbing, cruising and talking dirty. They are flirty queens finding “the prospect of a new body …a transitory excitement”. But there are dangers both physical and emotional, as we see as the play progresses.
Adam Spreadbury-Mayer’s production effortlessly transfers from the King’s Head into this space. In this one room, a whole world happens, supported by a fresh, hilarious and uncompromising script delivered with relish throughout.
In the cast, Lee Knight (Tony), Elliot Hadley (William) and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge (Greg), have performed the roles before, and it shows, particularly in Knight’s believable transition from carefree housewife to a partner unable to cope with a more permanent infidelity. It’s like watching a delicate doll shrivel up and lose all the glow of their paint.
As Robert, Jonah Rzeskiewicz is a newcomer to the group, with the most vulnerable and tricky part. Like all the men on stage, he’s not what he seems to be at heart but we still have to find him likeable. That this is achieved is laudable indeed, and as someone who comes from near Salford I was pleased he got the accent’s flat vowels right.
In Coming Clean, we find an honest account of the mechanics of gay love from a variety of perspectives, and it all adds up to a hugely entertaining night out. It continues at the Trafalgar Studios until 1 February as part of the King’s Head West End Season.
Image credits Ali Wright.
LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Coming Clean.