Saturday, 11 January 2020

REVIEW: Coming Clean at the Trafalgar Studios

Coming Clean is a production you know is going to be good. Having won the Samuel Beckett award back when it was first performed in 1982 as a ground-breaking play and Kevin Elyot’s first of many successes, it had a successful revival back in 2017 at the King’s Head Theatre, followed by a successful month 3 week run in January 2019. Therefore, with this 2020 production being the same in the same venue as last time (except for Jonah Rzeskiewicz is playing Robert), you know it’s tried, tested and works well.

The Trafalgar Studios theatre is quite a cushy studio, especially when packed full of people to see Coming Clean. This is quite an intimate and refreshing story about a gay couple (Tony and Greg) who live together in Kentish Town, 1982, whose relationship is far from monogamous. However, when Tony employs a handsome cleaner, Robert, to clean their flat, Tony and Greg’s differing values on love and relationships are challenged.

The play in itself is very cleverly written. It has some absolutely beautiful writing and really does go in depth about the struggles both of being in and not being in a relationship. Whilst it does tackle other issues like gay bashing and cruising, it clearly has a central focus throughout. Elyot’s writing clearly was ahead of the time and still is very much relevant in this day and age. Adam Spreadbury-Maher has clearly dissected this script and really highlighted all the little nougats that Elyot has given, and beautifully staged in a fantastic set! (Hats off to Amanda Mascarenhas for the attention to detail put into the set, plus the intimacy of the venue really does draw you in. It even smells like a 1982 very much worn in flat).

Lee Knight as Tony gave the most compelling performance of the evening, giving true vulnerability to Tony and he was so watchable in every scene. Stanton Plummer-Cambridge as Greg was a fantastic contrast to Tony’s emotionally open character by being very held and closed off, although I would have loved to see a bit more emotionally from him in the heightened sections. Jonah Rzeskiewicz and Elliot Hadley gave solid performances although at times it felt like Hadley’s portrayal of William, whilst the most hilarious character with the best one liners, was playing out to the audience too much in places, and taking away from this very naturalistic world set up.

However, I thought the quality of the writing and acting was somewhat cheapened by the nudity in this show. From the book to the cover photos it is sold as a naked show, and the section with nudity felt unnecessary, and could very easily have been in underwear and had the same effect. And the difference of lighting between the two characters and what parts you could clearly see made it very obvious that this moment was more thirst trap than for adding to the story. Not that I’m saying that moment didn’t make me gasp. They are an attractive cast. But I wish that the show was sold on more than just naked men, as the quality is easily enough for it to.

Overall I strongly feel this production is rock solid, with absolutely beautiful and tender moments that really do give a real insight into open relationships. It is an intimate experience you won’t want to miss!

Review by Adam Yorke

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: C17 | Price of Ticket: £30
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