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Coming Clean | Turbine Theatre

Set against the backdrop of 1980s London, Coming Clean is a kitchen sink comedy-drama, exploring themes of love, fidelity, and trust within a domestic gay household. Directed by Andrew Beckett and penned by Kevin Elyot, the playwright renowned for My Night With Reg, the play finds its home in the intimate space of the Turbine Theatre, which perfectly complements its narrative.


David Shields' naturalistic set design elegantly transports the audience back in time, with subtle nods to the era through period-appropriate decor and pieces without distracting from the drama. Significantly, it serves as a reminder of a time when gay relationships were not openly discussed and were viewed as taboo within society. It's a fitting backdrop for the tale of Greg and Tony, portrayed respectively by Alexander Hulme and Yannick Budd, who navigate their relationship amidst the arrival of the actor and part-time cleaner Robert, played by Theo Walker. In addition, the pair has to engage in entertaining the flamboyant but troubled William (Sam Goodchild) with his scandalous anecdotes from London’s gay scene.


Elyot's writing is mostly engaging, bringing unexpected laughs alongside the realities and complexities of long-term relationships. Budd delivers a captivating portrayal of Tony, effortlessly delivering Elyot’s one-liners with witty repartee. His performance reaches a poignant depth when faced with Greg’s latest infidelity, revealing the raw emotional vulnerability beautifully captured by Budd. Hulme delivers a solid performance as the resolute Greg, portraying the staleness of a five-year relationship alongside Budd's Tony. Walker shines as Robert, extracting comedy from uneasy moments while fostering a genuinely touching relationship with Hulme's Greg. Goodchild's portrayal of William is equally hilarious and harrowing, showcasing his versatility as an actor. However, while the performances are heartfelt, the material feels thin, resulting in characters that seem somewhat one-dimensional. They lack the necessary nuance to fully explore the important ideas of open relationships, ethical non-monogamy and trust that the play touches upon.


Structurally, the play's first act is sound. The writing is witty, provoking and moving at times, with the jokes landing well as the characters banter with each other. However, as the play progresses into the second act, the narrative becomes slightly convoluted and confusing, resulting in uneven pacing and logic gaps. Approaching the resolution, while the stakes are undeniably high, the emotions fail to resonate as strongly as they should. Despite the characters facing significant challenges, the audience finds themselves somewhat detached from their struggles, unable to fully immerse themselves in the unfolding drama.


This play is no doubt an important one but it leaves key questions under explored and unanswered. The play concludes with an open ending, which some may argue reflects life itself. However, it feels more like a missed opportunity for deeper exploration rather than a deliberate artistic choice. Overall, the performances are commendable, but the ideas feel undercooked, leaving the audience slightly puzzled about the overarching purpose of the story.


Coming Clean plays at the Turbine Theatre until 20 April. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Mark Senior


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