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Beautiful Thing

"unpretentious warmth and humour"

Audrey review: Cast shines strongly in British playwright Jonathan Harvey's warmly funny and optimistic depiction of two boys falling in love.

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Category: Theatre
Company: New Theatre
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Beautiful Thing

Date: 5 Feb 2021

There is potential for prejudice and hostility to play a part in a depiction of an unfolding romance between two 15-year-old, working class schoolboys.

But in this tender and funny play set in a London housing estate in the early 1990s – when East 17 were Top of the Pops and the homosexual age of consent was still 21 – British playwright Jonathan Harvey opens the door to optimism and acceptance.

The central relationship develops over a hot summer when Jamie (played by Will Manton) invites his sporty neighbour Ste (Bayley Prendergast) to stay over. Ste’s dad Trevor – whom we never meet – is a drunk and quick with his fists. Ste is frequently bashed black and blue.

Jamie seems rather more aware of the sexual frisson inherent in two boys sharing a single bed than the knockabout Ste, but it’s not too long before they are bonding over gossip in Hello! magazine and trading lines from Cagney and Lacy. A tube of mum’s Body Shop peppermint foot lotion is all it takes to break the ice.

The unpretentious warmth and humour in Harvey’s writing emerges strongly in director Mark G. Nagle’s polished production. David Marshall-Martin’s detailed set creates a solid sense of place. Casting is spot-on, the London accents (coached by Carmen Lysiak, aided by Emma Whitehead) likewise.

Julia Kennedy Scott convinces as Jamie’s garrulous, upwardly striving mum Sandra. Caspar Hardaker judges the role of Sandra’s artist boyfriend Tony – a middle class fish-out-of-water – perfectly, excavating every ounce of its comic potential. Hannah Zaslawski is excellent as the mouthy Leah, a teenager obsessed by hippy icon Mama Cass. And New Theatre debutantes Manton and Prendergast are a delight to watch as Jamie and Ste dance around their feelings and into each other’s arms.

A genuine heart-warmer of a show.

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