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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Beautiful Thing
Sound Theatre Summer 2006

Jonathan Harvey's 1993 play is a funny, warm and thoroughly entertaining romantic comedy. The fact that its two central characters are gay teenage boys is almost incidental.

(It isn't incidental, of course. On a secondary level, this is a very political play, asserting by its very success that such characters are appropriate subjects for a conventional rom com.)

But the play isn't overtly political. It is a light and happy celebration of the ability of a group of attractive people to find their way to a modest share of happiness.

Along with the two boys (neighbours on an estate in south London) are the mother of one of them, her current boyfriend, and the girl next door, who acts like a slut but is a secret romantic with a fixation on the songs of Mama Cass.

They all have problems, some of them too real for a happy ending to wipe away; they all have times of unhappiness, they all have conflicts with each other in various permutations. But they are all good people, and the play loves them all, wishes them well, and invites us to celebrate their small joys.

I fear that I am making this sound too mawkish and, well, nice. It isn't. There's a sharp edge to some of Harvey's humour, and an honest refusal to paper over all the unpleasantness in these people's lives. He makes the characters earn our warm feelings and good wishes, and they do.

Toby Frow directs with full appreciation of the delicacy of the material and the need to establish and sustain the right mood of well-wishing. The cast - Jonathan Bailey, Gavin Brocker, Steven Meo, Carli Norris and Michelle Terry - are all excellent, though Bailey as the boy fighting his own homophobia to find himself, Norris as the mother far wiser than any teenager could hope for, and Terry as the scene-stealing and more-complex-than-she-realizes neighbour are particularly impressive.

Gerald Berkowitz


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Review - Beautiful Thing - Sound 2006