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Suranne Jones 2013

Suranne Jones: playing mum

The actress tells us about her new role in the twentieth anniversary production of Jonathan Harvey’s ‘Beautiful Thing’ at the Arts Theatre

By Alex Hopkins
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Playing strong women comes naturally to Suranne Jones. For four years she delighted viewers as the fiery Karen McDonald in ‘Coronation Street’. Since leaving the show in 2004 Jones has gone on to establish a reputation as a remarkably versatile actress. This week she takes on the role of Sandra Gangel, the fearless mother of gay teen Jamie in ‘Corrie’ writer Jonathan Harvey’s urban fairy tale, ‘Beautiful Thing’.

‘Sandra’s actually quite different from me,’ admits Jones. ‘She’s a true character and I see myself as a bit of a character actress, but don’t often get the opportunity to be a real kind of changeling. She’s a 35-year-old woman with a 15-year-old son, and that’s a totally new dynamic for me.’ Sandra watches on as Jamie falls in love with neighbour Ste on their Thamesmead estate. ‘I don’t think Sandra finds it difficult to accept Jamie’s sexuality,’ Jones says. ‘Life has always thrown stuff at her and she deals with it.’

Jones is quick to credit the humanity of the play’s characters to Jonathan Harvey. ‘There’s a lightness of touch and a smart wit about Jonathan’s writing and I think Sandra is probably a part of him and all the women in his life. He’s able to tell an engaging story with humour.’

When ‘Beautiful Thing’ was first performed 20 years ago gay people faced a much more hostile environment. In an age where we’re moving towards equal rights, what message does Jones want to convey? ‘My job is to tell the story of the play, which is a love story, regardless of the sexes of the characters. Many gay men have told me that 20 years ago the play changed their lives. It would be great if that happens again.

‘There’s a lot of stuff on TV now about same-sex relationships so we’re not breaking any ground in 2013 by putting this on again, but what we are doing is a live piece of theatre where you can really engage with what you see – two boys falling in love. That’s very special.’

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