Think ‘A Taste of Honey’ meets SKINS…
When a show has its press night you can guarantee that you will spot the odd celeb or two coming along to support their fellow acting pal or favoured director they have worked with in the past.
It’s rare you see stars from TV and radio coming out of the woodwork to support the playwright…but that is exactly what happened at the press night for the Royal Exchange’s latest production Beautiful Thing written by Jonathan Harvey.
A wealth of past and present ‘Coronation Street’ cast including Michelle Collins, Shobna Gulati, Vicky Binns and Suranne Jones, along with comedian and Key 103 DJ Justin Moorhouse, were amongst the full house eager to see how Sarah Frankcom’s production treated Harvey’s witty and intelligent script.
Set on a high rise council estate in South East London in the Summer of 1993 , Beautiful Thing fills you with nostalgia from the era when East 17 were busy putting Walthamstow on the map and when Tom Hanks was making the transition from comic actor in 'Big' to serious heavyweight Oscar contender in 'Philadelphia'.
A story of love and self discovery it follows the relationships between neighbours and classmates Jamie, Ste and Leah. Leah (Tara Hodge) is obsessed with the music of Mama Cass, and routinely clashes with Sandra, Jamie's mum. When Ste (Tommy Vine), who lives in the flat next door seeks refuge from his drug -dealing brother and violent father, Sandra takes him in and offers him the only available sleeping space, which is 'top-to-toe' in Jamie's bed.
Claire-Louise Cordwell puts in a cracking performance as Jamie's 'tart with a heart' Mum, Sandra, a character who would not be out of place pulling pints in Eastenders. She manages to deliver dry one-liners with ease and oozes passion and gritty realism during the more touching scenes with her son.
Matthew Tennyson plays sensitive teen Jamie to the full, his wide eyed portrayal showing him coming to terms with his sexuality and feelings for the sporty and good looking boy next door Ste. Tennyson manages to get across the naive nature and vulnerability of the character and it is easy to believe he is a 16 year old despite knowing in reality he is over 20.
Nods must be given to the other 3 performers making up the full cast of 5, Price, Vine and Hodge-who play Tony, Ste and Leah respectively. Each performer creates a well rounded role which sweeps you away on a 90 minute emotional rollercoaster of love, laughter and tears.
Beautiful Thing has come a long way since Liverpool born Harvey wrote it back in 1992 whilst working as a student teacher. The play has enjoyed a tour, a West End stint and has been made into a Film4 movie, so director of the Royal Exchange production, Sarah Frankcom, had a lot to live up to when she took on the project.
Frankcom need not worry though as it seems Harvey has definitely given this version his thumbs up:
“Watching it now I feel like a proud parent, proud of the 24 year old who lay on his bed, angered by legislation and creating a piece of ‘art’ out of it”
SPOILER: Watch out for the ‘goosebump’ moment when Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus take to the stage with their fabulous rendition of the Mamas and Papas classic ‘Dream a little Dream of me’… complete with glitterball lighting!
Until 3rd December 2011 at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
Booking: 0161 833 9833