Beautiful thing: A review

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Beautiful thing was a ground breaking sensation when it first came to stage in 1993, dispelling prejudices and misunderstandings about young gay love was a powerful, and important, thing to do.

Set on the backdrop of a South East London council estate, this story tells the tale of two teenage boys who progress from classmates and neighbours to lovers. The set is simple yet effective, and the closeness of it all adds to the sense of community.

In a place of little hope and even less opportunities, Ste (Tristan Watertson) and Jamie (Ted Reilly) find comfort in each other as their relationship develops. Ste is forced to stay with Jamie in an attempt to escape the grasp of his abusive father, giving them the opportunity to come to terms with their sexuality.

This play explores the themes of being an outsider, ‘Victim of the system’ Leah (Amy-Leigh Hickman) rebels against anything and everything after being excluded from school, throughout the story she is consistently trying to find her place and longing for a sense of belonging.

It’s also about community and love. Jamie’s struggling single mum, Sandra (Phoebe Thomas), a barmaid with aspirations, struggles to find a balance between being a loving mother and maintaining a solid social and love life.

Sandra and Leah also have an intriguing relationship, built on trading insults but ground by more similarities than they first imagined.

Set in the 90’s, the controversy surrounding homosexuality is very much present. It was a difficult time to be a gay teenager, and Ste and Jamie tried their upmost best to keep it a secret for as long as possible.

The storyline is however, just as relevant now than it was 20 years ago. Although laws and attitudes have improved since then, anti-liberal ideologies are rising and the threat of bullying still lingers.

Beautiful Thing offers a clear-cut depiction of life and love on a council estate. Whilst tackling serious issues, Coronation Street writer Jonathan Harvey, still manages to infuse humor into this iconic story.

The music provided by the community choirs is very much relevant and helps to bring the story together. Their aim was to highlight one of the key messages of the play. “However broken your spirit and however hard your home life, if there’s a connected community around you it can lift you out of suffering and help you take your next step forward.”

Beautiful thing is at the New Vic Theatre from Tuesday 30 October–Saturday 3 November 2018. For tickets, more information, and more shows see the website for more details.

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