When Adam Spreadbury-Maher directed the 35th anniversary production of Kevin Elyot’s Coming Clean at The King’s Head Theatre, the prospect of not one but two West End transfers probably felt like wishful thinking. Yet, here we are, and for the second year running, Coming Clean is presented at Trafalgar Studios with only one cast change to its previous run.
This Kevin Elyot play was written before his most famous work, My Night With Reg but you can already see the trademarks of Elyot’s writing developing, and the precise like nature of his explorations in to gay domestic life.
It’s set at a time when homosexuality had just been decriminalised and before the AIDS crisis took hold, Tony (Lee Knight) and Greg (Stanton Plummer-Cambridge) are celebrating five years together, in a relationship which allows them both to sleep with other people, providing it’s nothing more than a one night stand.
When Tony hires a young out of work actor as their cleaner, things start to get messy and their relationship, and the rules with which it operates, are tested to the limit. Despite the emotionally volatile subject matter, Coming Clean is filled with moments of hilarity and jaw dropping one-liners, usually delivered wonderfully by Elliot Hadley in the role of William.
Jonah Rzeskiewicz joins the cast as Robert, the young gay cleaner who isn’t as innocent as he may first appear. Rzeskiewicz gives the character an abundance of innocence which makes the second act all the more compelling, he exudes the right kind of awkwardness that explains why the events that unfold in this Kentish Town are just the beginning for young Robert.
As with the previous productions of Coming Clean, the attention to detail in Amanda Mascarenhas set design is second to none. For the audience it’s like stepping back in time, and in the intimate setting of Trafalgar Studios, feels like a voyeuristic intrusion on the lives of these men of yesteryear.
Spreadbury-Maher’s direction is also incredibly detailed, and the transitions between scenes work particularly well. He has teased out from Rzeskiewicz and Hadley, in particular, two amazing performances at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Coming Clean sits like a kind of time capsule, but one where we can still recognise the themes and characters which inhabit it. London is lucky to have a third opportunity to see this fascinating and emotional play which has been staged beautifully.