King’s Head Theatre 28 July – 26 August. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
The 35th anniversary production of Kevin Elyot’s first play is a triumph. Even before the action starts, Amanda Mascarenhas’s brilliantly authentic set design whisks you back to the 1980s. Older members of the audience were reminiscing about the magazines and albums on view, and I got a bit miffed at Santa all over again when I saw the amazing Walkman that never turned up on Christmas morning.
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.
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 every girl’s dream GBFs, with Knight keeping Tony likeable and strong despite the hairspray and occasional histrionics in a fine performance. Hadley steals the show as William, revelling in the flirtatious and outrageous role, but allowing the underlying vulnerability to trickle through. Tom Lambert, making his London debut, is suitably wide eyed and seemingly innocent as Robert, and Jason Nwoga is imposing in the difficult role of Greg. At first it is very unclear what Tony sees in the gruff Greg, but Nwoga reveals his softer, almost paternal side with consummate skill.
Coming Clean just works on every level – a fascinating story about relationships with superb writing and acting in a brilliant production that will enthral audiences, whatever their age, gender or sexuality.