Jonathan Harvey’s iconic romantic comedy/drama Beautiful Thing is celebrating its 20th Birthday by making a comeback and, to quote the Mamma Cass song featured prominently in it, “it’s getting better”. Stephen Bates went along to the press launch to find out more.
Beautiful Thing is a teenage love story set on a South London social housing estate, with the twist that both lovers are boys. Groundbreaking when it first appeared, director Nikolai Foster (new Artistic Director at the Curve, Leicester) claims that Harvey’s play still has much to say today. Yes, Section 28 is gone, same sex marriage is legal and equality is enshrined in law, but he feels that homophobic attitudes, particularly in relation to bullying, continue. He first directed the play last year and he cites examples of audience members demonstrating their disapproval and walking out at the interval.
Charlie Brooks does not need to protest that she is too young to play Sandra, the mother of one of the boys, although, surprisingly, she is only two years younger than her character is written. She welcomes the opportunity to lay dead her “evil Janine” image from Eastenders by playing a thoroughly nice lady. An 18 week tour will sometimes separate her from her 10-year old daughter, but she will be able to commute to some of the venues and she will find the journeys no worse than her daily crawls round the M25 to Elstree.
Thomas Law (also from Eastenders) and Sam Jackson (Skins) will play the two boys. Newly announced is the casting of Vanessa Babirye (currently playing Tybalt in a National Theatre schools production of Romeo and Juliet) as neighbour Leah and, in the rôle of Sandra’s boyfriend Tony, Belfast born Gerard McCarthy, who acknowledges a boost given to his career by another actor from that city, Sir Kenneth Branagh.
2015 tour dates announced so far are:
- 23/24 March – Marlowe, Canterbury
- 30 March to 11 April – Hippodrome Birmingham
- 13 to 16 April – Lowry, Manchester
- 21 April to 10 May – Playhouse, Nottingham
- 11 to16 May – Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford
- 18 to 23 May – Theatre Royal, Northampton
- 25 to 30 May – Curve, Leicester
- 22 to 27 June – Swan, High Wycombe
- 14 to 18 July – New Theatre, Cardiff
- 20 to 25 July – Theatre Royal, Brighton
It is hoped that more dates will be added and that the tour will wind up with a return to London’s West End.