My Night With Reg
Kevin Elyot’s My Night With Reg: ‘the perfect West End play’
Excerpts from the article that ran in The Guardian - Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Shortly before his bittersweet comedy was revived at the Donmar in 2014, the playwright Kevin Elyot died aged 62. Stephen Daldry, Hugh Bonneville and Lindsay Duncan remember their friend.
Stephen Daldry (Director - Billy Elliot film and musical)
It was quite early in my tenure as artistic director at the Royal Court when My Night With Reg landed on my desk. It was commissioned by Hampstead Theatre, but they decided not to show it. I’ll never know why. It was one of those plays that we read, and straightaway said: “Let’s do it”. I sent it to Roger Michell, a director I really wanted to work with us, and again his reply was an instant “yes”.
It is an incredibly funny play. We billed it as a comedy, but it isn’t a comedy at all – it is this heartbreaking tale of emotional yearnings and mistakes and infidelities, which really categorised the rest of Kevin’s work afterwards.
It captured the mood of a particular time. Don’t forget this was when Aids was breaking down upon us all. But Kevin, very cleverly I thought, never described it as an Aids play, so it never got pigeonholed. I think audiences who saw it on the West End thought it was this tragicomedy. There were other plays tackling gay issues on the British stage, but none had Kevin’s lightness of touch and humour. Kevin himself was this wonderful figure – a funny, careful, charming and heartfelt soul.
Though it is set in the 80s, I don’t think it’s a play only of the 80s – it speaks to us directly and vividly now. In many respects, My Night With Reg is the perfect West End play: audiences will either be hysterically laughing or crying. It is a really fun evening out, and then you come home feeling deeply touched. And you can’t ask for much more than that.
HUGH BONNEVILLE (Earl of Grantham, Downton Abbey)
At the time Reg came to the West End, I was co-producing another play, Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey, that had just transferred from the Bush theatre. It was a very dynamic time, and there was a real sense these two “gay plays” – as they were christened – were rattling the conventions of what made a West End play, tackling subject areas that at the time weren’t so palatable for a theatregoing audience.
When the director Roger Michell asked me if I’d like to come and replace John Sessions as Reg, I hadn’t seen the play yet. We had a jokey rivalry, and I was loyal to Beautiful Thing. But when I saw John Sessions in the role, I was utterly bewitched. I don’t think I’d ever been in an auditorium where the laughter was so uproarious and the aching, painful silences were so intense.
LINDSAY DUNCAN (Birdman and Alice Through the Looking Glass)
My Night With Reg almost defines Kevin as a writer. His familiar themes of secrecy and longing are threaded through a masterly structure, completely under his control, remorseless in its lack of sentimentality and, therefore, heartbreaking and hilarious.
A Canadian premiere production with an all-Canadian cast! The Toronto production of My Night with Reg features:
Tim Funnell, Alex Furber, Martin Happer, Jeff Miller, Gray Powell, Jonathan Wilson.