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Theatre Coming clean with refreshing candour

KATHERINE M GRAHAM recommends a frank exploration of gay male relationships

Coming Clean, Trafalgar Studios London

THE LATE Kevin Elyot’s ground-breaking 1982 play Coming Clean was revived at London’s Kings Head Theatre in 2017 and the production – a  funny, warm and unapologetic look
at the friendships and lives of four gay men – is now on at Trafalgar Studios.

It’s remarkable how well Elyot’s play has stood the test of time. The conversations about violence, monogamy and even domestic chores still feel extremely relevant, though the politics of those conversations has shifted somewhat.

Centrally, the play interrogates what it’s like to live in an open  relationship, with Greg (elegantly played by Stanton Plummer-Cambridge) and Tony (Lee Knight) having been in a non-monogamous relationship for five years. Committed to each other, they also understand that “a new body’s always exciting.”

During the course of the play, the exact parameters of their relationship come into question. What exactly are the rules here and what happens when their relationships with other men stop being about bodies and start being about love?

The production, tightly directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher, is at its strongest in moments of crisis, as when William (Elliot Hadley) arrives late to Tony and Greg’s anniversary dinner, having been assaulted in a homophobic attack.

It’s a visceral, shocking moment and Hadley does an extraordinary job of balancing the pain of that violation with the humour William uses to deflect from the trauma of the moment.

Likewise, Knight’s performance as Tony shines most in the moment he responds to finding Greg sleeping with their cleaner Robert (the very likeable Jonah Rzeskiewicz). His portrayal of Tony’s blossoming anger and deep sense of betrayal is heartbreaking.

While questions might be posed about the play’s structure – the crisis in Tony and Gregg’s relationship comes late, leaving little space  to fully explore it – Elyot’s ear for dialogue is wonderful.

The lively banter between friends and intense conversations between lovers are evocative and thought-provoking.

Runs until February 2, box office: trafalgar-studios.com

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