Coming Clean

We were delighted to be invited to The Turbine Theatre, Battersea, London as we have never seen anything less than wonderful at this creative production house nestled on the south side of the Thames. As we have come to expect from the Turbine, we are welcomed by the front of house team, like old friends – indeed it feels like a theatre you want to be friends with.

As we enter the intimate theatre space it is clear that the play we are about to see is set in the 1980s. The set is dressed to period perfection even down to the cut-glass crystal decanters, polished glass dining tables and actual newspapers of the time. It was like we’d walked into our Nan’s place back in the day. The soundscape also places us clearly in the 80s, in fact one of us is sure we had this album on cassette! However, as the show progresses there is no real need for it to be so.

Coming Clean is in essence a four-man play featuring four oh-so stereotypical gay characters. William (Alexander Hulme) is the Northern gay who will sleep with anyone if sleeping is necessary to get what he wants. Tony (Yannick Budd) is William’s friend who is in a settled, but very much open relationship with Greg. Tony brags to William about his conquests but no one is convinced, least of all Tony. Greg (Alexander Hume) is the older professional come Sugar Daddy who is financing Tony’s attempts to become a professional writer. Then there is Robert (Theo Walker) the out of work actor/twink who enters Tony and Greg’s lives and apartment in order to earn some money as a cleaner.

Try as we might, it’s really difficult to warm to any of the characters because they are basically two-dimensional caricatures. None of them are well developed by the writer, which leads to them being badly acted. William (although by far the most amusing) simply becomes a more generic northerner. Tony becomes a wooden James Dreyfus, whilst Greg just sounds bored with the whole thing. Spoiler alert: we don’t think Robert would end up sleeping with Greg as portrayed unless he’s using him as an aid to insomnia. The plot (such as it is) you can see coming five minutes in with very few surprises. Indeed, the only real surprise is the writer chose to “go there”, when there could have been much more interesting, entertaining or comic options. All this is summed up in the last scene which feels a bit like the cast trying to say: “so, this is what happened…we’re off now.”

Sadly, the writer’s and director’s choices seem to make little sense. Was this meant to be a comedy or a drama? It feels like our first Turbine Tragedy. True there were a few gems in the script, but they were like finding a needle in a gay-stack of cliché. In our opinion, Coming Clean is a project that even Kim and Aggie couldn’t polish! Sadly, on this occasion it fails to clean up.

This show was reviewed on the 2nd April 2024 at The Turbine Theatre, London where it runs until the 20th April 2024.  Tickets available here: Coming Clean | The Turbine Theatre

Review written by Paul Wood

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Photo credit: Mark Senior

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