Celebrating its 30th year, Beautiful Thing written by Jonathan Harvey is currently running at Stratford East, before heading up to Leeds Playhouse and HOME in Manchester.
I first saw the film Beautiful Thing in the late 90s, and immediately fell in love with the characters. I was fortunate to see it in Soho a few years ago and on Saturday I was in the audience to Anthony Simpson-Pike’s directorial interpretation.
From the moment the piece started I was hooked. This production is absolutely fabulous. As an audience we are instantly transported back to the early 90s, finding ourselves in a council block in Thamesmead South London.
The piece has 5 on-stage characters; Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran – Jamie, Raphael Akuwudike – Ste, Trieve Blackwood- Cambridge – Tony, Shvorne Marks – Sandra and Scarlett Rayner – Leah.
The beauty of Harvey’s writing is that each character has good stage time, all characters are well developed, and each has a story to share with us. Huge kudos here to the casting director, Isabella Odoffin, who has simply put, cast a brilliant ensemble. Each actor stands on their own, and as an individual performer. The performance levels were first class – the on-stage chemistry between the five of them was powerful to experience.
The play is a Romantic Comedy, centred around Jamie and his mum Sandra, and their neighbours. The set is simple. It’s a council block with three front doors on display, the centre wall also doubles up as Jamie’s bedroom. About 80% of the action takes place outside these flats across a few days. The dialogue is snappy, the pace is quick, and you find yourself laughing out loud throughout the production.
The way in which the production has dealt with the relationship between Ste and Jamie is indeed a beautiful thing. Their love for each other is tender and age-appropriate (they are after all 15-year-old school kids) we want them to be together and we laugh along with their banter, their fear, and their fondness for each other.
I cannot fault the whole production, and there are far too many fabulous scenes to mention, I can just assure you that this is a play you’ll want to see if you enjoy romantic comedies and enjoy the music of 1993 and Mamma Cass.
From Ste’s attempt at football to Leah’s Mamma Cass acid trip, to everything that Sandra does on stage, there is so much to love about this production. The only thing missing is the presence of a Drag Queen (in the film version only) but the way the production uses lights, music and movement to represent Ste and Jamie’s trip to The Gloucester (pub) is more than sufficient and works really well on stage.
Go and see it, you won’t be disappointed.
Review by Faye Stockley
Teenage boys Ste and Jamie are neighbours on a South London estate. Jamie is more knowledgeable about The Sound of Music than football, while classmate Ste never misses a sports day. Both are being bullied, Jamie at school and Ste at home by his violent father and brother. One night, when things get too much, Ste seeks refuge in Jamie’s flat and, sharing a bed, the boys strike up a new relationship. Together they come to terms with their sexuality and explore their feelings alongside their Mama Cass loving, rebellious friend Leah and with the much-needed emotional support of Jamie’s lioness mother, Sandra.
Raphael Akuwudike and Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran play Ste and Jamie in this 30th-anniversary revival of Jonathan Harvey’s iconic, coming-out and coming-of-age story, alongside Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge as Tony, Shvorne Marks as Sandra, and Scarlett Rayner as Leah.
A Theatre Royal Stratford East, Leeds Playhouse and HOME, Manchester Production.
FRI 08 SEP – SAT 07 OCT 2023
Cast & Creatives
Written by Jonathan Harvey
Directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike