Beautiful Thing

Theatre, Comedy
A close up of two naked male torsos, one man walks his fingers across the other's abs
Photograph: Supplied/New Theatre

Time Out says

The classic queer play is just the ticket for sweaty summer nights full of longing

If you’re queer-identifying or an LGBTQ+ ally of a particular ‘90s vintage, chances are you had director Hettie Macdonald’s gorgeous sun-soaked southeast London gay romance Beautiful Thing whirring on repeat on VHS, back when tapes were a thing.

Adapted for the big screen by Jonathan Harvey from his own stage play, which debuted three years previously, it’s a seriously gorge coming-of-age and coming-out drama set in a council estate one baking hot summer as geeky teenager Jamie (Glen Berry) unexpectedly falls for his buff, footy-playing neighbour Ste (Scott Neal). If you haven’t seen it, you really should track it down.

Or better yet, go back to the source this Mardi Gras as director Mark G Nagle (Angry Fags, F*cking Men) stages a fresh production at Newtown's New Theatre. Addressing everything from domestic violence to homophobic bullying with a surprisingly light touch and a great big beating heart, the play is set in a very different era. Long before marriage equality in the UK, even the age of consent was not equal (16 for heterosexual people, 21 for same-sex). Then prime minister Margaret Thatcher had banned schools from discussing homosexuality at all.

Starring Caspar Hardaker, Will Manton, Bayley Prendergast, Julia Kennedy Scott and Hannah Zaslawski, the show is an important reminder of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go. “I’ve had a love affair with this play for over 25 years,” Nagle says. “I saw the very first production at the Bush Theatre in 1993, and it was magical for me as a gay man to see such an honest presentation of young love against the odds, which was also funny and recognisable. I hope our audiences will be deeply moved… as well as delighted by Jonathan Harvey’s comedic language. Coming out is still full of pitfalls – let’s not be fooled that even in our more enlightened times it’s a walk in the park.”

Love queer stories? Also check out site-specific show Green Park from Griffin Theatre.


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