Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing is a moving, queer love story which has resonated with audiences since its premiere back in 1993 at Bush Theatre. Harvey’s play has been commended for its humour, uplifting moments, and its authentic portrayal of love in the face of adversity. Thirty years later, Beautiful Thing has returned to London under Anthony Simpson-Pike’s direction.
Set against the backdrop of a South London council estate, the show revolves around the lives of two teenage boys, Ste and Jamie, as they form an unexpected bond.
Jamie (Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran), who dislikes sports and would rather listen to The Sound of Music, is avoiding school as he is being bullied. His classmate and neighbour Ste (Raphael Akuwudike), a sports fanatic and popular pupil, is avoiding home due to an abusive dad. One night, Ste faces trouble at home when his drunken dad lashes out. Ste seeks refuge next door when Jamie’s mum overhears and invites Ste into their home. Sharing a single bed, Ste and Jamie develop a connection and strike up a new relationship.
With support from Jamie’s fiercely protective mum, Sandra, and their rebellious neighbour, Leah, we see Ste and Jamie explore their feelings and sexuality.
Rosie Elnile’s realistic council estate set design and Xana’s nostalgic soundtrack transport us back to the nineties. While the time and setting remain the same as the original, I appreciate Simpson-Pike’s revival being told through a Black queer lens. This is clearly a significant piece of LGBTQ+ theatre, so to include characters that reflect the diversity of the community is beautiful to see.
Scarlett Rayner’s performance as Leah oozes with a bubbly and sometimes chaotic energy, while Sandra’s smooth-talking boyfriend, Tony (Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge), delivers cheesy one-liners which provide laughter. Shvorne Marks brilliantly portrays the feisty Sandra and commands the stage with her presence. Amongst the hilarity, I enjoyed the vulnerability shown through the characters, as we discover the personal challenges they face.
The play is full of warmth and humorous scenes too, although not all the jokes landed for me. The pacing of the show, particularly in Act One, feels too slow and there are moments where the energy dips. There are elongated scenes with the tension between Leah and Sandra, which I feel weighs the show down. I would have preferred additional scenes with Ste and Jamie instead, especially leading up to their romance. Abiola Owokoniran and Akuwudike perform with believable chemistry and I absolutely adore their moments together. Whether it was reading magazines, playing football, or clubbing- I wanted to see more!
Beautiful Thing is a beautifully written play and remains a heartwarming portrayal of queer love. It’s refreshing to witness an LGBTQ+ story with a happy ever after.
The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, High Tide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE
Drum roll please…(Cue a literal drum rolling across the stage.) The Lyric pantomime is one of traditions with the return of many well-loved jokes and skits. Costumes and sets are all made at the Lyric itself by Good Teeth, with set pieces being reused year on year. This year Cinderella gets the Hammersmith makeover, with some success. The costuming is fun and vibrant, with the ugly stepsisters’ equine pyjamas and hoop-skirted ball gowns giving all the wrong kinds of extra you need for those characters. Cinderella’s on stage dress transformation is magical and really well-timed. The Dame, Lady Jelly-Bottom’s, outfits … More CINDERELLA – REVIEW – LYRIC HAMMERSMITH
Amy catches up with Linus Karp ahead of his performance of Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story, at London’s Clapham Grand. Linus and Joseph of Awkward Productions are also the masterminds behind the new show Gwyneth Goes Skiing. Hello Your Majesty/ Candle Entrepreneur, how are you feeling coming back from a hugely successful fringe and triumphant tour across your kingdom, ahead of performing in front of 700 of your loyal subjects, and before (the list never ends!) opening a brand new show, which has recently gone viral? Exhausted, exhilarated and alive. We’ve had the most ridiculous year – I feel … More INTERVIEW – LINUS KARP – DIANA: THE UNTOLD AND UNTRUE STORY