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Kevin Elyot

Playwright

Playwright

Born: July 18, 1951; Died: June 7, 2014

KEVIN Elyot, who has died aged 62, won acclaim as the writer of one of the defining plays about Aids. My Night With Reg transferred from the Royal Court to London's West End in the early 1990s and provided an incisive comment on the illness that was then ravaging society.

The play was about professional, sensible, independent grown-ups with good jobs.

All were gay men but Elyot refrained from the stereotypes of camp talk or bitchy chatter.

The play explored various liaisons between homosexual men and although the eponymous character Reg was much mentioned, he never appeared on stage and his death from Aids made an electrifying ending to the drama.

My Night With Reg was labelled a gay play but it was mainly a plea for companionship and coping with loneliness.

Kevin Elyot (born Kevin Lee) was a keen pianist as a child and his family regularly attended RSC productions at Stratford. After attending King Edward's School in Birmingham, Elyot read drama at Bristol University.

He worked at various London fringe theatres as an actor and spent a few years with the radical group, Gay Sweatshop, in the late Seventies performing in the Edinburgh Fringe on several occasions.

He submitted a play, Coming Clean, to the Bush Theatre in 1982 which told of an apparently stable gay relationship beset by infidelities on both sides. It was awarded the Samuel Beckett Award and Elyot joined the literary agency run by the formidable Peggy Ramsay.

When Elyot delivered his second play to her, she tartly commented: "If you are going to write like this, dear, you should take up a hobby, like squash."

While acting he wrote radio plays and an adaptation of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone for the Swan Theatre in Worcester. That gained a wider audience when it was seen on the BBC in 1997.

During a tour of Moliere's Imaginary Invalid, Elyot contracted pneumonia and while in hospital sketched out the plot for My Night With Reg.

The Royal Court immediately mounted a production directed by Roger Michell with David Bamber and John Sessions.

It was an immediate hit and transferred to the West End, winning both the Olivier and the Evening Standard Awards.

Hugh Bonneville, now famous as Lord Grantham in Downtown Abbey, took over the role played by Sessions.

Elyot wrote other plays including The Day I Stood Still for the National Theatre and a delightfully camped up version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Was None, but his writing proved most successful on the small screen.

He wrote memorably for both Poirot and Miss Marple and demonstrated a keen understanding of the original Agatha Christie novels. He had co-written with Ruth Rendell No Night is Too Long in 2002 for the BBC which resulted in Elyot being commissioned by Granada to script Death on the Nile - one of the most challenging Poirot stories.

Other notably successful television dramas included Clapham Junction (2007), which was about several gay men during a 36-hour period in Clapham.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England in 2007, Channel 4 re-screened the programme.

Last year Elyot wrote Riot at the Rite for the BBC about the events in Paris surrounding the first night of Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring with Alex Jennings as Diaghilev and Aidan McArdie as Stravinsky.

He also wrote the script for the film Isherwood and His Kind in 2011, subtly adapting Isherwood's own memoirs, and last year wrote the final Poirot in which the Belgian detective's little grey cells took a final curtain call.

Elyot is survived by his mother and his sister.

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