"BEAUTIFUL THING" by Jonathan Harvey
Beautiful Thing is one play that everyone should be made to watch. it is beautifully written and beautifully presented tonight. It's the story of two young people who fall in love, the emotions they go through at the start, the secrets they keep, the excitement and the pain, and the only thing that sets this love affair apart from many others is that the two young people just happen to be two young men.
It's a play that has a hell of a lot of humour and humanity, packed with emotion which will have you choked up one minute only to find yourself laughing at the next. It is a wonderful snapshot of life, even though it is set in the 90's, the decade is of no importance because love conquers all. It always has and it always will, no matter what.
Jamie and Ste are next door neighbours who have been friends through childhood. Jamie is not in the slightest bit interested in sport and would rather hang out with Leah, his other neighbour, or chat about Cagney & Lacey, Ste is the sports mad keep fit lad who is being knocked about by his alcoholic father who then beats him. It is because of this treatment that finds Ste and Jamie's attraction brought to light.
Jamie is the one who takes the lead in initiating the relationship, unafraid of being called a "queer",but terrified when his mum finds out what has been happening. Jamie is played sensitively and emotionally by Sam Jackson, who you may recognise from the excellent series "Skins".
Ste is at first reluctant to Jamie's advances, and is in denial over his emotions, again terrified of what everyone will think of him but more than that terrified of his father finding out what has been going off in case he receives another beating, or worse! Another emotion packed performance from Thomas Law. There is a wonderful scene near the end where he discovers that Jamie's mum, Sandra, knows of the relationship and real panic sets in with Ste physically shaking at the discovery.
Leah is the young neighbour who idolises Mama Cass who provides the soundtrack to the play, and is wonderfully played by Vanessa Babirye. Full of vigour but,a s with the other two characters an outcast in her own way. Not only is she black but she likes Mama Cass' music and has been kicked out of school, so she has plenty of time to hang out with Jamie.
Sandra's boyfriend is a wonderful comedy distraction but has a non judgemental, steadying and mature head on his shoulders. Gerard McCarthy plays the playful and loyal Tony who has really fallen for Jamie's mum.
Every character is believable and lovable and that's the same for Sandra, played by Charlie Brooks. A far cry from her Janine Eastender days, Sandra is a confident character who tries to get Jamie more involved in sports and is worried that he is hanging out too much with Leah and feels her to be a bad influence on her son. She is brash, loud but with a heart of 24 carat. It was great to see the emotional turn round when she confronts Jamie about his visit to a gay pub which brought out Sandra's protective mothering side, something that had not been shown prior to the stunning revelation.
Even though the play is set over 25 years ago, gay men and women are still the subject of derision and physical and mental attacks and in some countries homosexuality is punishable by death even today! This play shows the emotional, normal, loving side of two people who find the other attractive. It is a tender depiction of two people who love each other and just strive to be accepted by others as just any other loving couple.
The action is all contained inside a simple set of three doors with an urban effect background which envelopes the central area used as Jamie's bedroom, and a clever bed which took me a couple of minutes to work out how it appeared and disappeared. Cleverly designed by Colin Richmond.
There is a very realistically choreographed fight scene with Sandra and Jamie, and I do pity Sam because if Charlie whacks him like she did tonight, every night on stage, he'd need make up to cover up the bruises. This is just one of the quite shocking and highly emotive scenes.
I can't recommend this wonderful, tender, funny and emotional play enough. All five actors give their absolute all, and when that happens, something magical happens and that is why I love the theatre so much.
"Beautiful Thing", the title says it all, can be seen at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 9 May 2015, but if you miss it here, it's at the Curve Theatre in Leicester at the end of May.