From Brighton to Birmingham and back, Gay bashing remains both a living memory and a persistent reality in some quarters. Today, gay culture is widely recognised and celebrated in the arts. That wasn’t the case when Kevin Elyot – originally from Birmingham – was writing the script for ‘Coming Clean’ in the 1970s.
In this production at the Brighton Little Theatre, directed by Bradley Coffey and stage managed by Rosalind Caldwell, street violence is sometimes touched upon. However, the play is mainly examining the life of a Gay couple living together in a modest flat in Kentish Town. It’s almost suburban.
There’s a wooden table with four chairs, a sofa and a lampshade. The window looks out onto Georgian houses opposite.
It’s 1982 and Tony (Chris Church) is the archetypal struggling writer but his relation with Greg (Leigh Ward) from the US has remained strong. They’ve been together for five years.
The front room is where they negotiate their love, relationship and jealousy. They’ll argue over what music to play and what writing is good. But they have an open arrangement about sex. It’s OK if one of them has a fling. One night stands: yes. Permanent affairs: no.
It’s not until the very attractive Robert (Morgan Corby) turns up as their cleaner that things start to go as wrong as love triangles always do. Robert promptly starts an affair with Greg.
Now Tony and Greg’s long standing arrangements, agreements and tolerance start to buckle. Tony tries to remain pious and virtuous. There is a bit of nudity and a bit of swearing. But perhaps the hangovers from old fashioned heterosexual patterns still lurk in dusty corners.
The recriminations of sexual betrayal cut across genders and sexualities and threaten Tony and Greg’s sensible arrangement. The common tropes start to emerge: ‘I’m not going to share you’ and ‘from the start you have never been faithful.’
This production of Elyots’ play managed to take us away from the scene of the polite living room drama of middle class aspirants. Out on the street, a very unfashionable Jurgen (Steven Adams) is an overweight working class drunkard from Germany.
He’s drinking and kissing, dazed but affable, bloody and beaten. ‘Ich verstehe nichts’ he says. We also do not understand what has happened.
He slurps the whisky. ‘Das ist gut!’ he says and cheerfully waves the whisky bottle.
‘Let’s call the police’ say some voices. But this is back to street violence not some sensible agreement devised in a second floor apartment.
‘Ich liebe dich’ says the fat man a long way from love. It may remind us that gay bashing could still be in fashion.
Photos: Miles Davies