This review is of the show's run in 2013.This production returns to the West End in June 2015 with Charlie Brooks as Sandra, Thomas Law as Ste and Sam Jackson as Jamie.
Cult classics are tricky beasts. Their many fans tend to be hard to please and the fact Jonathan Harvey’s 20-year-old play has become a cult film too doesn’t help. So it’s a huge tribute to Nikolai Foster’s terrific, gutsy revival that it stands squarely on its own two feet.
The sweet story of working class teenage lads falling in love on a council estate in Thamesmead has certainly lost some its original revelatory shock – the shock that a gay love story needn’t wrap itself in protest or separatism. But if it’s become a bit of a period piece, with its references to Cagney and Lacey and even Madonna, the themes of family relationships, domestic violence and rites of passage remain strongly emotive. And it’s still got five cracking characters.
Colin Richmond’s set is a grim old communal deck of a concrete council high rise, accessorised with an abandoned shopping trolley and a thicket of TV aerials. But as with Foster’s red-blooded production in general, the pit-bull simplicity allows the actors to shine. Jake Davies (Jamie) and Danny-Boy Hatchard (Ste) are a joy as the two young neighbours secretly discovering their love for each other.
Footballer Ste fills in for his missing mum, doing the chores and taking the violence from dad. He can only glance nervously at kind, sensitive Jamie, who has problems of his own living in the shadow of his sensationally overbearing mother.
Suranne Jones is an imperiously Amazonian Thames-estuary goddess in the latter role, spitting any number of obscenities but always remaining implacably loyal. There are neat cameos, too, from Oliver Farnworth as her painfully well-meaning artist toyboy and from Zaraah Abrahams as a singing truant next door. It’s beautiful stuff, and fresh as it ever was.
Average User Rating
4.3 / 5
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This show was outstanding. Great music beautifully performed and built around the story of the making of the song writing and recording career of the wonderful Carole King. So many grewt songs, some we know of and others we never knew she wrote. Recommended to any baby boomer out there who has loved her songs for all these years.
Warning: you will want to sing along - an impulse best resisted!
Visited March 2015
Now that the last performance is on, I'll leave a comment - it was fun, and a good night out. However, I did not like how Suranne overshadowed the production - and misfired a lot fo the jokes. I also thought they missed half of the screamingly funny lines in the play. The man who played Tony seemed awkward. I actually think Danny-Boy Hatchard, as a newcomer, was the most convincing - his awkwardness played true to the part, ad I think he was underutilised. Jake Davies tried too hard - long overdone laughs...the one redeeming point of his performance was actually, for me, before the start of the second half when he is alone on stage - he was in his own skin. Ultimately, the pivotal, spontaneous moment between Sandra and Jamie was missed completely. Dunno, again, I thought the night was fun, but the demand for 'star-power' in theatre now is unfortunate. I'm grateful they produce these things, and understand you have to sell tickets, but I wish all that hadn't sidelined the nuances and esoteric qualities of an otherwise brilliant project.
OK you've seen the film, In the theatre it's amazing. Brought back to life by a cast that gives it all and deliver laughter and sadness and tenderness seamlessly. The text shows some age - in the world of the internet and some aging cultural references it IS a piece of its time but is still a wonderful story. Bob's full house may be long gone but it still raises a smile. Although interestingly Sandra met Tony in Tesco's rather than Gateways !!! Yes I know the script that well!! It may not be as shocking as it was in the 90's in terms of subject matter or language but it's simplicity as a love story is still as fresh and special to watch. Sitting in the audience is sometimes like the Rocky horror show - many know every line and are repeat atendees but watching it for the 1st or 50th time, revisiting or coming fresh it works for everyone. Staging is simple and keeps the action focussed on the cast. Suranne Jones is well cast and does an excellent performance as Sandra, Oliver Farnworth has a difficult task to play Tony but is fun to watch and makes some difficult dialogue or direction work. But Jake and Danny-boy playing Jamie and Ste are just delightful to watch. It's not just the words that count but the silences, looks and movement that engage you right into thier world. There is a long line of actors playing these parts well but this cast sets the bar for future actors high. They truly deserve the credit that has been given them by reviewers. Its a tight performance 5 cast, no big orchestra, no showpiece musical numbers but fantastic to see back in the heart of London. It's on a short tour - catch it if you can.
As a fan of the film, I am a little over-familiar with the script of Beautful Thing, but this did not detract from the play which was still fresh as a daisy. The performances were fantastic, particularly Suranne Jones as Sandra. Catch it while you can. Highly recommended!