Coming Clean - A Gay classic entertainingly revived - recommended

The King’s Head Theatre continues its Queer season with Kevin Elyot’s Coming Clean – a piece of gay nostalgia from the early 1980s. But, don’t let the age of this play put you off. There is much relevance here with good doses of comedy and tension, making this a satisfying performance for a modern audience.


Gay theatre has often, over the years, taken as its themes, heart wrenching stories with acidic twists of humour about AIDS or the modern dystopian vision of the world of ‘chemsex’ parties – think Angels in America, My Night with Reg, (Kevin Aylot’s best known work), 5 Guys Chillin’ or the Chemsex Monologues.


Coming Clean, harks back to an earlier time, 1982, before the Internet, Clause 28, HIV, ‘Tina’ or Grindr –  a period when, although there were struggles to be overcome, gay playwrights started to address what it was to be gay and in a relationship in a more matter of fact way.


No doubt, Coming Clean, the debut work of Kevin Elyot, the renowned and sadly missed dramatist, was seen as very bold and daring at its premiere. Perhaps the modern audience are more knowing, cynical - a bit of a ‘seen it all before bunch.’


However, under the direction of Adam Spreadbury-Maher, a little piece of 80s gay life has been lovingly and convincingly revived in a grotty Kentish Town flat – home to successful New York born author Greg (Jason Nwoga, conveying a solid air of success) and struggling  writer, boy friend, Tony (Lee Knight, likeable, calibrating well the rising hysteria and emotion as he tries to keep the relationship alive). There are the sounds of an upright Hoover, the ring-ring of a wall mounted two tone phone, talk of 90p pints (outrageous!) and, wearing a Sony Cassette Walkman, struggling actor/cleaner Robert, (Tom Lambert, the cute younger guy, knowingly navigating a path to sexual conquest). With the well chosen soundtrack in the background, it's all really evocative. The acting and the chemistry between the actors, especially Lee and his best mate William, played irrepressibly by Elliot Hadley, helps breath life into a script, although with some great one liners, can border on the melodramatic ‘kitchen-sink drama’ in tone.


Looking at the struggle for monogamy in a gay relationship as the couple reach their fifth anniversary – (is it possible to stay faithful?) is as relevant today as it has always been. The play charts this all too squirmingly well for those in the audience who have been there. So, a voice from the early 80s reminds us that, in the gay world – or in any world really – it was ever thus. Recommended.

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Coming Clean
King's Head Theatre, London
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