Lee Knight will star as Tony in the return of Kevin Elyot’s Coming Clean to Trafalgar Studios. 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.
In 2017, Adam Spreadbury-Maher directed the 35th anniversary production and the first London revival of Coming Clean, which transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 earlier this year, where it will play again from 8th January to 1st February 2020.
You’re returning to the role of Tony in Coming Clean, what can you tell us about Kevin Elyot’s play?
Coming Clean was written and originally performed in 1982, a very specific, important time in our history. Homosexuality had not long been decriminalised and so was merely tolerated, AIDS had not yet been discovered and so gay men were only just starting to navigate their way through domestic life, love and relationships. The play follows Tony and Greg, a young gay couple, both writers, living together in a flat in Kentish Town. It looks at the complexities of their relationships, their wants and needs. It’s about belonging, heartache and the need to be loved. Oh, and it’s also very funny.
How would you describe Tony, and what’s your favourite thing about playing him?
Tony is at the core of the play so we follow his emotional journey throughout. He is young, frustrated, ambitious and deeply sensitive. He is torn by life. On one hand he wants the heteronormative ideals, but he also ‘thinks’ he needs to fulfil the common temptations of young gay life. Through Tony you really see the deep need and also the struggle to be loved. My favourite part about playing him is his wit mixed with pain. The two together is what Kevin Elyot writes best.
What first attracted you to this production, and what’s encouraged you to come back?
It is not every day you get asked to audition for a Kevin Elyot play. His dialogue is exquisite and it’s a privilege to get to perform his work again.
This is your third time in the role, how do you refresh your performance each time?
There is so much history to soak up and immerse yourself in when it comes to these characters. I do a lot of preparation on the era but I also make sure I have plenty of personal material that helps me get back into the character and the world. Honestly, the text is so raw that it does most of the job for you.
Why do you think Coming Clean has been so popular with London audiences?
Because London audiences want more. They want to see their history in front of them. They want to relate, be educated and to feel on a much deeper level. I honestly believe it’s both therapeutic and cathartic. Audiences have said the most incredible things after seeing the show. For some of them, it’s their history being told. It’s theirs.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Coming Clean?
You have great taste! 🙂
Main Image: Lee Knight