My Night With Reg at The Crescent Theatre

My Night With Reg, the Olivier and Evening Standard award-winning bittersweet comedy about a group of gay men coming to terms with AIDS written by ‘Birmingham boy’, the late Kevin Elyot, makes a long-awaited appearance at The Crescent. What gives this production a special twist, is that it is directed by Rod Natkiel who was a friend of Kevin Elyot, a fellow drama student and who acted with him.

Kevin Elyot, who died in 2014, was born in Handsworth, went to King Edwards School, Birmingham and then to Bristol University, where he studied Drama. Rod Natkiel also studied Drama at Bristol University. He is a professional director who works pro bono for The Crescent, with previous productions there being For Services Rendered, The Laramie Project, The Lovely Bones and, recently, a spectacular 5-star reviewed The Girl on The Train. Rod has a long association with arts and entertainment in the region, having been responsible for all BBC Pebble Mill’s network television and radio output for seven years in the late 1990s and he was Chair of West Midlands Arts for four years, helping to secure funding for the Crescent’s new building which opened during his tenure.

My Night With Reg traces the story, from the summer of 1985, of six gay men in London as their world begins to unravel because of the AIDS epidemic. Three of the characters were at university together twelve years previously and those characters and their memories are strongly based on people and life at Bristol university in Kevin Elyot’s and Rod Natkiel’s time there as Drama students.

Rod Natkiel said: “It’s a little spooky not only to be 90% sure of who the real people were on whom the characters in the play are based, but also because of the memories that come flooding back through references and moments in the play. But the most important thing is that this is a masterfully crafted and thought-provoking play that causes havoc with an audience’s emotions as it bounces from heart-breaking tragedy to brilliant comedy. There are many moments that are outrageously funny and several others when it’s very, very hard not to cry.”

The characters are beautifully observed and range from Guy, the perfect gentleman who’s suffering from almost 15 years of unrequited love for John (who is anyway having an illicit affair with his own best friend’s boyfriend) to Benny, who’s got a monumental chip on his shoulder and is perpetually angry and foul-mouthed – and Benny’s boyfriend, Bernie, whose doubts and anxieties are wrecking his mental health. Daniel is the outrageously flamboyant one of the pack but early in the play suffers tragedy which de-rails him.

And then there’s Eric, the naïve Brummie 18-year-old who’s just moved down to London and, whilst coping with sorting out his own sexuality, finds this group’s lifestyle bewildering and their promiscuity upsetting.

Each of these characters, other than Guy, has had his “night (or several nights) with Reg”, unknown to the others, and the consequences are dreadful and far reaching. But even Guy has his own tragedy, brought about by appalling cruelty. My Night With Reg starts joyously until the dark threat in the background, under which these men are living, begins to materialise and the tone changes.

The play and this production pull no punches. There’s passionate male-on-male intimacy, nudity and some gutter language. But none of that is gratuitous; it reinforces that this work is, above all, about real life and real people. Though portraying a slice of 1980s gay life against the background of AIDS, My Night With Reg is ultimately about a group of friends and the tensions that develop between them. Neither AIDS nor HIV is actually mentioned in the play.

The play examines the frailty of friendships and the critic David Benedict described it as “the best British play about secrets and lies”. Rob Hastie, who directed the 2014 major revival of the play at the Donmar Warehouse expanded on that: “It’s about the cost of lying, the kindness of lying, the farce of lying, lying between friends. There will always be friendships that have their secrets and their honesties.” Rob Hastie describes My Night With Reg as Kevin Elyot’s masterpiece.

It is an award-winning comedy and, demonstrating Elyot’s supreme craftsmanship in telling a deeply serious, disturbing and sad story whilst also making the audience laugh, this is also an engrossing play of constant discoveries as the plot twists and turns. Elyot sets out to wrong-foot and surprise the audience at several moments in the play, and succeeds brilliantly in doing so.

Rod Natkiel continues: “This is a play that, for many years, I’ve wanted to direct, not just because of my connection to Kevin Elyot and the friends reflected in the characters, though that is very important to me, but because I consider it a consummate piece of writing by a master of his craft. It tackles important themes which are perpetual and universal and it manages to punctuate moments of hilarity with stabs of acute pain. To do it justice demands a top class cast and team, and we have just that for this production. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be working with them.”

My Night With Reg runs in the Ron Barber Studio at The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, from July 8th to July 15th 2023. More information and tickets are available at: