by KEVIN ELYOT
Artistic Director of King’s Head Theatre, London, Adam Spreadbury-Maher directed the 35th anniversary production of Coming Clean, Kevin Elyot’s first play, which ran at the King’s Head Theatre from 25 July to 26 August 2017. This was the play’s first major London revival since it opened at the Bush Theatre on 3 November 1982, and aptly opened in the month that celebrated the 50th anniversary since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Coming Clean looks at the breakdown of a gay couple’s relationship and examines complex questions of fidelity and love. The production headlined the Kings Head Queer season ’17 which ran from August through to September 2017.
The play is set in a flat in Kentish Town, north London, in 1982. Struggling writer Tony and his partner of five years, Greg, seem to have the perfect relationship. Committed and in love, they are both open to one-night stands as long as they don’t impinge on the relationship. But Tony is starting to yearn for something deeper, something more like monogamy. When he finds out that Greg has been having a full-blown affair with their cleaner, Robert, their differing attitudes towards love and commitment become clear.
In his foreword to Kevin Elyot: Four Plays (Nick Hern Books, 2004), Elyot writes, “From 1976 to 1984 I’d acted in several productions at the Bush Theatre, and Simon Stokes, one of the artistic directors, had casually suggested I try my hand at a play. I presented them with a script entitled Cosy, which was passed on to their literary manager Sebastian Born. He responded favourably and, largely through his support, it finally opened on 3 November 1982 under the [new] title Coming Clean.”
Written 12 years before his most famous play, My Night With Reg, Coming Clean won Elyot the Samuel Beckett Award for writers showing particular promise in the field of the performing arts.
Theatre critic Michael Coveney wrote of Elyot in his obituary for The Guardian in 2014, “In writing about the human heart and the art of living – which Proust defined as ‘making use of the individuals through whom we suffer’ – Elyot transcended categorisation and produced a small body of stage plays that will reward revival, and not just as period pieces.” Coveney goes on to describe Coming Clean as “an elegiac play about sexual relationships at a time when Aids was still a barely credible rumour in Britain, but there was a sense of foreboding in the final scene.”
Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher (recent King’s Head productions include the European premiere of Tommy Murphy’s Strangers in Between, La Bohème and Trainspotting) will be joined by set designer Amanda Mascarenhas (An Unknown Place, Ovalhouse Theatre, 2016) and lighting designer Nic Farman (Shock Treatment, La Bohème, Così fan tutte, Madam Butterfly, and F*cking Men for the King’s Head).
The production was produced by King’s Head Theatre and Making Productions on 25 July – 26 August 2017 at the King’s Head Theatre.
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