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Beautiful Thing review at Arts London

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One of the joys of Jonathan Harvey’s 1993 play, Beautiful Thing, is that despite occasional references to celebrity it manages to remain a fairly contemporary piece. The tale of young love blossoming on a council estate may strike a nostalgic chord complete with rainbows, heatwaves and a Mama Cass soundtrack but it doesn’t shy away from issues of social frustration, domestic violence and abuse as themes that still resonate today.

Director Nikolai Foster goes some way to addressing these issues in this anniversary production and manages to capture the sentiment if perhaps not the spirit of the piece. The heart of the play is still intact – as is the sense of humour, but some of the guts appear to have been misplaced along the way and without them the play is in danger of slipping into pure whimsy. Beautiful Thing was never a gritty drama but smoothing over the cracks lessens the impact tremendously.

There are some sensitive performances, not least from newcomers Jake Davies as Jamie and particularly Danny-Boy Hatchard as Ste in his first professional role. Hatchard captures the awkwardness of those teenage years beautifully and along with Davies, the two gently develop the emotional heart of story.

After a strong start, Zaraah Abrahams seems to lose steam as neighbour Leah – never quite able to match up to the energy of Suranne Jones’ determined Sandra. An undeniably smooth piece of casting, the Scott and Bailey star is a definite draw and hits many of the right notes, particularly in her scenes with Oliver Farnworth’s asinine Tony, a comic creation of unfathomable value.

Production Information

Arts, London, April 13-May 25, then touring until June 15

Author
Jonathan Harvey
Director
Nikolai Foster
Producers
Tom O’Connell, QNQ Ltd, Alexander Wang
Cast
Suranne Jones, Zaraah Abrahams, Oliver Farnworth, Jake Davies, Danny-Boy Hatchard
Running time
2hr 20min
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