Trafalgar Studios – until 2 February 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
The King’s Head Theatre’s production of Kevin Elyot’s first play transfers to Trafalgar Studios, and the intimate space of Studio 2 is the perfect fit. It feels like we are all sitting in Tony and Greg’s cramped little flat. Even before the action starts, Amanda Mascarenhas’s brilliantly authentic set design whisks you back to the 1980s.
It is 1982, and Tony and Greg live together in Kentish Town. They have been together for five years, and have an open relationship, with the unspoken rule that they don’t sleep with the same man twice. When Tony hires actor Robert as a cleaner, their relationship is put to the test.
I can’t speak knowledgably about gay relationships in the 80s, but I am sure this play will resonate with many of that generation. Replace the discos and bars where Tony and William go cruising with modern social media, and Coming Clean is still topical, with the sexuality of the characters irrelevant to the emotional core of the story. Fidelity and monogamy, love or sexual gratification, domestic bliss or exciting and possibly dangerous encounters – what choices and compromises would you make in the name of love? Elyot’s writing still feels fresh, and even the darkest moments in the play are shot through with wit and warmth.
Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s direction is spot on, with superb sound and light design choices, and brings out the best from a fine cast, with superb timing and chemistry – especially between best mates Tony and William. Lee Knight’s Tony and Elliot Hadley’s William are a scream together, with a wonderfully written relationship that provides the biggest laughs of the night. Hadley steals the show as William, revelling in the flirtatious and outrageous role, but allowing the underlying vulnerability to trickle through, and Knight is fantastic as catty but sensitive Tony. Tom Lambert is suitably wide eyed and seemingly innocent as Robert, and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge is imposing in the difficult role of Greg. At first it is very unclear what Tony sees in the gruff and slightly staid Greg, but Plummer-Cambridge reveals his softer, almost paternal side – ensuring that he doesn’t become the villain of the play, just a man who can’t give Tony the relationship he longs for.
Coming Clean just works on every level – a fascinating and very funny story about relationships with superb writing and acting in a brilliant production that will enthral audiences, whatever their age, gender or sexuality.