Plays by Kevin Elyot

Coming Clean

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Coming Clean, Kevin Elyot’s first professionally produced play, looks at the breakdown of a gay couple’s relationship and examines complex questions of fidelity and love. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, on 3 November 1982.

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 title Coming Clean. Cosy had fallen out of favour – a pity, as I'd always liked the pun on the opera which plays such an important part. I came up with the present title as a necessary compromise after what had proved to be quite a bumpy ride from acceptance to premiere.'

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by David Hayman and designed by Saul Radomsky. The cast was Eamon Boland, C.J. Allen, Philip Donaghy, Ian McCurrach and Clive Mantle.

Coming Clean won the Samuel Beckett Award for writers showing particular promise in the field of the performing arts.

The Day I Stood Still

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kevin Elyot's The Day I Stood Still is a comedy drama about the heartbreak of unrequited love and the power of memories. It was first performed in the Cottesloe auditorium of the National Theatre, London, on 22 January 1998.

The play is set in a North London mansion block. Horace, Jerry and Judy were teenagers in the 60s, into drink, drugs, Hendrix and each other. Thirty years later, Judy unexpectedly drops in to see Horace with her new French boyfriend and we learn that Jerry has died, leaving behind his and Judy's four-year-old son, Jimi. It seems Horace is unable to escape the deep love he has always harboured for Jerry, even after his death, until one night he receives a visit from a now grown-up Jimi looking for comfort in the midst of his own romantic turmoil.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Mark Thompson. The cast was Adrian Scarborough, Callum Dixon, Catherine Russell, Daisy Beaumont, Geoffrey Church, Jake Wood, Joseph Swash and Oliver Milburn.

Forty Winks

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

In Forty Winks Kevin Elyot explores the realm of thwarted desire, while playing on the painful comedy that can ensue from the gulf between social decorum and the turbulent emotions that lie just beneath.

From the back row of a local cinema to an anonymous hotel room, Don’s obsession will not let him rest. He’s still carrying a torch for Diana, his childhood sweetheart stolen away by Howard. He unexpectedly drops in on Howard and Diana having not seen them for fifteen years only to discover they now have a daughter, Hermia, who is the spitting image of Diana when Don first fell for her. Suddenly, all his old longings come bubbling dangerously close to the surface.

Forty Winks premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2004 in a production directed by Katie Mitchell.

Mouth to Mouth

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kevin Elyot's Mouth to Mouth is an intricately plotted drama about a man haunted by feelings of guilt and shame over an incident in his past. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 1 February 2001.

Playwright Frank is suffering from AIDS. Having just been through a rather nasty eye operation, the play opens with him talking to his close friend, Laura. The serenity of the scene is interrupted by the ominous sound of a motorbike revving in the distance, before flashing back to Frank’s lunch the day before with his preoccupied doctor, Gompertz. He tries to confess to an incident from his past that is haunting him but can’t quite seem to find the right moment before we are hurled back in time once more to the incident in question. The play explores notions of guilt and death, as well as our inability to truly know even our closest acquaintances.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Mark Thompson, and performed by Michael Maloney, Lindsay Duncan, Adam Godley, Peter Wight, Andrew McKay, Lucy Whybrow and Barnaby Kay.

The production transferred to the Albery Theatre, London, on 17 May 2001.

My Night with Reg

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kevin Elyot’s My Night with Reg follows the ups and downs of a circle of gay friends in London over a period of several years, and tackles with brutal honesty the impact that AIDS/HIV had on the gay community during its height in the 1980s, as well as examining the pain of unrequited love and the joy of friendship. The play was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 31 March 1994 before transferring to the West End.

The play's action takes place over three scenes, all of them set in the living room of Guy’s flat in London: during Guy's flat-warming party (Scene 1); after Reg's funeral, some years later (Scene 2); and after Guy's funeral (Scene 3).

The group of friends, most of them in their thirties, meet at irregular intervals, often at Guy's place. Guy himself is a lonely man. Ever since their university days, he has had a crush on John, but he has never dared to tell him about it. Rather, he lives a solitary life, which he only spices up with phone sex and an occasional visit to a gay pub – that is where he meets 18 year-old Eric, who then helps him decorate his new flat. On holiday on the island of Lanzarote, he meets a gay man who eventually forces himself on Guy and has unprotected sex with him – the last thing Guy has been looking for. At his flatwarming party, he has just come back from his holiday and is still quite shocked about what happened. It is hard for him not to start crying when, as a present, John gives him a cookery book specialising in dishes for one.

The most popular member of the circle is Reg, who is conspicuously absent from the party (he doesn't in fact appear in the play at all). Reg has had a long-term relationship with Daniel, but Daniel himself suspects Reg of occasionally being unfaithful to him. In fact Reg seems to be sleeping with every man he can get hold of (even, it seems, with the vicar). In the course of the play, John, Benny and even his seemingly faithful companion Bernie have secret sex with Reg. Ironically, they all confide in Guy. It hurts Guy most to hear that John – whom he himself fancies – is having an affair with Reg, thus betraying their mutual friend Daniel. After his fling with Reg, Benny panics because he thinks he might have contracted HIV, but he does not confess it to his partner, Bernie.

When Reg is dying from AIDS, he is looked after by his partner, Daniel. Ironically again, the next one to die is Guy, the only one who has not had sex with Reg and who seems to have been infected with HIV when he was raped during his holiday in Lanzarote. Guy bequeaths his new flat to the love of his life, John, who does not need it at all because he comes from a rich background. In the final scene, John tells Eric that he has discovered a hoard of memorabilia in the flat dating back to his and Guy's student days. He realises – belatedly – that Guy was in love with him.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Roger Michell and designed by William Dudley, with Anthony Calf as John, David Bamber as Guy, Joe Duttine as Eric, John Sessions as Daniel, Roger Frost as Bernie and Kenneth MacDonald as Benny.

The production transferred to the Criterion Theatre, London, on 15 November 1994, then to the Playhouse Theatre, London, on 27 June1995.

My Night with Reg won the Evening Standard and the Olivier Awards for Best Comedy and was later turned into a feature film directed by Roger Michell with a screenplay by Kevin Elyot, featuring the original Royal Court cast. The film was released in 1997.

The play was revived at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in July 2014, in a production directed by Robert Hastie.

Twilight Song  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Kevin Elyot's last play, Twilight Song was not performed until after his death in June 2014. It is a bittersweet drama tracing a single family’s hidden liaisons over half a century, exploring the pressures faced by gay men before and after the decriminalisation of homosexuality. It was first performed at Park Theatre, London, on 12 July 2017, in a production by Cahoots Theatre Company and David Sloan in association with Park Theatre.

The play takes place in the same sitting room of a Victorian villa in North London during the early summers of 1961, 1967 and the present day. In the first scene, set in the present, retired pharmacist Barry (now in his mid-fifties and living with his elderly mother, Isabella) shows the family home to estate agent Skinner, eventually succumbing to Skinner's sexual insinuations. The action then tracks back to an evening in 1961, when Barry's father Basil (played, according to a note in the script, by the same actor) was preparing to go out for supper at Le Caprice with the pregnant Isabella, his gay uncle Charles, and Charles's married lover, Harry. Charles and Harry have long had to keep their lust for each other a secret from the family. By 1967, the year of the Sexual Offences Act, Isabella feels free to make a confession to Charles about her sex life, while liberation has come too late for Charles and Harry.

The Park Theatre production was directed by Anthony Banks and designed by James Cotterill. It was performed by Philip Bretherton (as Harry), Adam Garcia (as Skinner/Gardener), Bryony Hannah (as Isabella), Paul Higgins (as Barry/Basil) and Hugh Ross (as Charles).

Twilight Song premiered at Park Theatre, London, in 2017.

Picture of Kevin Elyot

Born in Birmingham in 1951, and educated there at King Edward’s School and then at Bristol University, Kevin Elyot was an actor before becoming a writer. His play My Night with Reg, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1994, won the Olivier for Best New Comedy. The play transferred to the West End where it ran for almost a year. It was revived by the Donmar Warehouse in 2014.

His other plays include Coming Clean (Bush Theatre, 1982 and winner of the Samuel Beckett Award); a version of Ostrovsky’s Artists and Dreamers (RSC, 1992); The Day I Stood Still (National Theatre, 1998); Mouth to Mouth (Royal Court and Albery Theatre, 2001) and Forty Winks (Royal Court, 2004).

Kevin Elyot also wrote extensively for television. His screenplays include Killing Time (BBC, 1990 and winner of a Writers’ Guild Award); The Moonstone (BBC, 1996); the film version of My Night with Reg (BBC/Alliance Atlantis, 2002); Poirot: Death on the Nile and Five Little Pigs (Granada); 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, from the novel by Patrick Hamilton (BBC, 2005); Riot at the Rite (BBC, 2006); Clapham Junction (Darlow Smithson/Channel 4, 2007) and Christopher and His Kind, adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s autobiography (Mammoth Screen/BBC, 2011). He has also written numerous episodes of Marple for ITV Productions and has also written for radio.

Kevin Elyot died in 2014.