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Coming Clean, Trafalgar Studios review - Kevin Elyot play has lost the pathos if not the plot | reviews, news & interviews

Coming Clean, Trafalgar Studios review - Kevin Elyot play has lost the pathos if not the plot

Coming Clean, Trafalgar Studios review - Kevin Elyot play has lost the pathos if not the plot

1982 play needs sharpening in this shallow revival of a revival

Boys' night: Elliot Hadley and Lee Knight in 'Coming Clean'Scott Rylander

Time and a transfer haven't been kind to this well-meaning but surface-thin revival of Coming Clean, the 1982 Kevin Elyot play that is surely more poignant than is ever apparent here. Two summers ago, much the same cast found a better-calibrated way into this portrait of gay life, love and loss in a first-floor Kentish Town flat. Back for an encore engagement, the four-person company seem to be playing to an invisible laugh track as if awaiting a TV sitcom spin-off of the same material. 

It's not just the facial tics and busy posturing that quickly grate. More damaging is the feeling that no one is really listening anymore to Elyot's plaintive take on the gathering lovelessness that besets a foursome bound together by a fraying thread. Tony (Lee Knight), the putative authorial surrogate, is a writer five years into what would appear to be a fairly tetchy relationship with Greg (Stanton Plummer-Cambridge), a New Yorker so disagreeable that one wonders how Tony ever made it a week in his company. (Plummer-Cambridge, the lone newcomer to the company, comes at the role with a palpable sense of disgust, as if nursing some damning secret to which the audience is never made privy.) Tom Lambert in 'Coming Clean'The fly in the ointment comes when Tony decides to hire a nubile young cleaner, Robert (Elyot brought in a comparable outsider in his later, and greater, My Night With Reg): the pursed-lipped, poshly spoken Tom Lambert (pictured above) gamely sheds his clothes as required by the dictates of a plot that exists to drive Tony and Greg apart, but his actions remain scarcely less cryptic than those of the scowl-heavy Greg. One is never quite sure whether Robert is simply an innocent adrift or, in fact, a minx-in-the-making who knows how to manoeuver the situation to sexual advantage. (Plummer-Cambridge and Knight, pictured below.) 

Stanton Plummer-Cambridge and Lee Knight in 'Coming Clean'Lending comic relief, and played to a non-existent balcony by Elliot Hadley, is Tony's camp, ciggie-smoking bestie, William, a Bradford wit who is never short of an aperçu or two and fields a joke about rimming a camel which must constitute some kind of first. The sort of visitor to one's home who soon takes it over, William threatens to capsize the delicate balance of the play. It therefore comes as something of a relief when Hadley returns later on to play a German pick-up of Tony's called what else?  Jürgen in a Schubert-accompanied coda of sorts that brings the play to its melancholic finish. (The irony of Tony's last line sehr, sehr gut registers strongly.) 

The roundelay of missed connections and misplaced affections would go on to be a theme in the distinguished career of Elyot, who died in 2014  the same year as the brilliant 20th-anniversary revival of Reg which proved conclusively that this writer's emotional dynamics can absolutely take their place alongside those of, say, Chekhov. As it is, Adam Spreadbury-Maher's production gets the occasional guffaw, and a soundscape encompassing both Mozart and Streisand lends an aural variety to complement the period detail of Amanda Mascarenhas's set, even if I didn't expect to find dimmer switches referenced in writing from this period. (Also surprising for a play from 1982: one character's past employment working in computers.) But the shifting eddies of feeling that ripple beneath the surface mostly go untapped: not so much coming clean as remaining unmoved.

The roundelay of missed connections and misplaced affections would go on to be a thematic in the distinguished career of Elyot

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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