Beautiful Thing

Jonathan Harvey
Sound Theatre
(2006)

Publicity photo

Toby Frow's revival of this early semi-autobiographical play by Jonathan Harvey has an awful lot going for it.

As one has come to expect from this playwright, it is packed with sharp dialogue and great comedy, balancing a touching story of first love.

The set, designed by Ben Stones, is outstanding, convincingly recreating the exterior of three flats on a failing council housing estate in Thamesmead and inserting a bedroom in which much of the action (in every sense) takes place.

Add in some high quality acting, perfect timing and even that rarity in a London Theatre, air conditioning, and it is easy to see why this production from early in the year has returned to converted night-club Sound.

The plot is characteristic Harvey, as 15 year old Jamie, endearingly played by Jonathan Bailey, who has only just completed his A Levels, tries to come to terms with his life and sexuality.

Nobody in Beautiful Thing has an easy life. Carli Norris is Jamie's mum Sandra, a knockout barmaid but with perennial man trouble personified by drippy, Welsh toyboy Tony (Steven Meo). She is also very naive in allowing her son to share a bed with a boy one year older.

On either side live Jamie's classmates, Ste who gets beaten by every member of his drunken, macho family, and that is before they find out that his new love is male; and Leah. Michelle Terry steals the show as this girl who, having been excluded from school, splits her time between tarty behaviour and a burning desire to reincarnate as sixties icon Mama Cass (Elliot).

Miss Terry is extremely funny, sings pretty well and even manages to draw pathos from a part that in other hands would be very close to caricature.

Jonathan Harvey gets the balance between his coming of age, gay love story and a generally affectionate comic portrait of South London life pretty much right and this revival is strongly recommended.

Rivka Jacobson reviewed the first production at the Sound Theatre

Reviewer: Philip Fisher