Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
There have been several times when I have really looked forward to seeing a production; I've built my expectations and hopes up only for the production to let me down. WELL NOT THIS ONE!! This show met and exceeded all my expectations.
"Beautiful Thing" is a play written by Jonathan Harvey, the same man who gave us the brilliant "Gimme Gimme Gimme" for TV, but, for anyone who knows nothing of this play, it's quite different from the TV comedy. Basically this is a love story between two people, it just so happens that the two people in question are two teenage boys. We can all remember falling in love for the first time and that awkwardness, the shyness, the not wanting to be rejected by the other one, and this is what this play is all about.
Ste and Jamie are neighbours and go to the same school. Ste is the sports fan and Jamie can't stand sports, but it's when Ste seeks out the solace of Jamie's home after being hit by his abusive father, that the protective feelings start to materialise with Jamie which develop into what is a tender and sweet love story.
Jamie, played by Jak Truswell, makes all the running after tending to Ste, played by Sean Radford, and his bruises as they share Jamie's bed, top and tailing. Both actors have played the roles in the past and they make both characters believable. The initial awkwardness is also packed with nervous tension and you really feel for Jamie as he's unsure how Ste will react. You could cut the atmosphere in the Lace Market Theatre with a knife, as well hearing pins drop. I, along with the rest of the audience, hung on to every word and action. A tribute to Sean and Jak's understanding of the characters and their acting abilities.
The other roles are also very character driven and the very talented cast gave wonderful performances.
Sandra, Jamie's mum, at first sight is a slightly selfish and unloving mother but as the play devolops she turns out to be just what Jamie needs. The touching scene where she confronts Jamie about his sexuality after his visit to a gay bar with Ste, is quite emotional and lovely. Jemma Froggatt plays Sandra with great gusto, showing that hard Southern outer surface but with a compassionate and tender underbelly. The scene where Sandra and Jamie are fighting is so realistic, you can hear, and almost feel, the slaps they trade, making you take a sharp intake of breath.
Leah, the neighbour, is of the same age of the lads and is a drop out from school. She loves the music of Mama Cass, which provides the soundtrack to her life as well as the play. Leah is a tough cookie who really just wants to be loved, which, although she finds a bitter enemy in Sandra, they seem to be cut from the same cloth. This makes the ending even more emotive. Leah is a very different role from those I've seen Rosina Reading play in the past and it was good to see the fire in her role. Her drug scene is awkwardly comical to watch as you're not sure whether you should be laughing at the pitiful, and dangerous situation Leah has put herself in.
Tony is Sandra's latest, well the fourth, boyfriend of late. A hippy artist who is so laid back, he's almost horizontal. Damian Frendo plays Tony who is just a bit too suffocating for Sandra and while Ste and Jamie's affections rise, Sandra and Tony's is on the wane, well from Sandra's side that is. The wardrobe department didn't have to work too hard on Tony's outfits!
This play is the directorial debut for Bex Mason, but I feel that this may not be the last because she has given us a sensitive and emotional piece of theatre, bringing the play up to date from it's 1993 creation, injecting modern references to One Direction, the TV show "Pointless" and Sam Smith to make sure it's kept fresh. A wonderful job done.
The set is split into two sections. the three doors for the three neighbours and a smaller section for Jamie's bedroom. Realistically created and functional designed by Max Bromley. And for the record, that bed is just right for one person and let's face it, Sandra, I'm sure wasn't expecting Jamie to be sharing it with anyone on a permanent basis, especially at fifteen years old,but it looked like it could be pretty toasty snuggled up to someone else under that quilt!
Sensitive lighting design created day and night and gave the impression of passing time, ably created by Matthew Allcock, Charlie Bailey, Allan Green, Peter Hodgkinson and Rosina Reading. Again the end lighting effects created just the loveliest of final scenes. The sound engineers normally only get a mention if the sound is bad and jarring, but it was perfect; I could hear every word and the sound of the Mama Cass records played by Leah gave the effect that the music was from her house, giving spacial awareness to the settings. Another pat on the back to Charlie, Peter, Matthew and Teya Simone.
As I said, this production exceeded everything I was hoping for. I love this play for the messages it gives out in a comical, but at the same time sensitive way and while homophobia may still be a reality today, this play gives out the wonderful message that it doesn't matter who you fall in love with, as long as you fall in love. it also shows that you can't always judge a book by the cover. It's ending, in my mind, is one of the best because you always feel like punching the air and whispering "yessss!"
"Beautiful Thing" is on at The Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 23 January 2016 and I would urge everyone to try and see this show. It's a beautiful piece of theatre presented by an amazing cast and produced by a wonderful theatre group.