Beautiful Thing - responses

Beautiful Thing is a really touching and engaging play, a view shared by Critics Circle and much of the audience. Set in the early 90s, the play depicts the relationship of two young lads on an East London estate. It’s a story about personal development, being true to yourself, triumph over adversity, and most of all, it’s all about the love.

Critics Circle came out with a big smile and warm feelings. The simplicity of the play was wrapped up perfectly in some brilliant comedy and strong acting performances. Charlie Brooks, of EastEnders fame, certainly seems to have stolen the show for a lot of the CC bunch, despite most of them being too young (surely?) to know her on-screen persona. Brooks’ feisty single mum is matched with incompetent boyfriend Tony and school drop-out Leigh to make a great supporting cast for the relationship of Jamie and Ste (short for Steven).

Dealing with some dark themes, the play’s script and bouncy energy really help to deliver an important message. The Critics Circle verdict is that Beautiful Thing really does live up to its name.

Jack Revell, Editor

Heart- warming, Heart- wrenching and hilarious
Set in an inner city housing estate, Beautiful Thing tells the hilarious and poignant story of two young boys who fall in love with each other in the early 90s. While the storyline was very simple and naturalistic, I felt thoroughly engaged throughout the whole piece.

The acting was superb and each actor was extremely strong. Charlie Brooks; who played the main character Jamie’s mum, was brilliant. She balanced together the hard working single mother toughness with being caring and having unconditional love for her son. Not only this, but she was hilarious and hit all the right notes with the comedy lines, leaving the audience in stitches. Gerard McCarthy was also fantastic, playing the eccentric and extremely funny Tony.

The set was very clever; it had a backdrop of things you would find in a run-down estate; concrete walls, TV aerials, and square lights that light up during the night scenes, looking like streetlights. This scenery combined with the quite strong smelling smoke onstage gave a very interactive feel, as if you were really there, watching through another window. The lighting also cleverly shone on the bed during dark bedroom scenes, creating the effect of streetlights shining through shutter blinds.
Overall, the play, although short, was a great experience to watch and I would strongly recommend it for anyone over 14 (there are strong expletives and scenes of a rather sexual nature), wanting to see something funny, touching, and simply beautiful.

Carys Brown

Some people think that theatre has to be big, bold and complex with a deep and underlining meaning – it does not. Beautiful Thing demonstrates this tremendously, taking theatre right down to what it really is about, people and lives. Set in a rough London block of flats, the play shows that in somewhere so unexpected, something beautiful can begin.

The set of the play is very interesting to the eye. Upon entering you can see what seems to be the roof of the estate on the walls, with street lights and shopping trolleys dotted around randomly. This clever, multi-functional set created a great juxtaposition to the joyfulness of the piece and that of the well-selected 80s music that played regularly in the background. The acting in the play is also very true to life. I do not think there is a better complement that I can give to the actors and director than that it felt real. I felt like I was really there, living the story and becoming part of the strange, mismatching family before me. Amongst the brilliant humour and well-placed setting we learn something, this is what the piece to me is all about and this is why I would recommend it to young and old alike. It will teach people that issues in our society, such as homosexuality, are not really issues at all and simply put, in the words of character Tony, ‘It’s okay’. We can all take something from the feeling of isolation and loneliness that, upon revealing your true colours, can quickly turn to joy and togetherness. The play may inspire people to be more honest about their own lives and make them realise that there are people who love them. And to others, the play can simply highlight that, love is love – and it is a beautiful thing.

Morris Findley

A Beautiful Thing. Review-love letter.
A love letter from Jamie to Ste, trying to convince him it’s all okay.

Dear Ste

What’s up? You can talk to me; you know that right? I know you’ re scared and I get that, but you’ re not alone, there’s others like us, people who feel the same as us. You saw the guys in the club last night. All I want to say is that I love you and I am willing to try this but if I’m going to face society and all its cruelty, I want to be hand in hand doing it with you. Who cares if your dad doesn’t approve, my mum probably doesn’t either. But we can keep this to ourselves, our own loving secret. These past weeks have been the best of my life, because I’ve realised my love for you.
Please reply Ste. You mean everything to me.

With love
Your Jamie.

Matty Collins

A Truly Beautiful Thing
Set in a block of council flats on an estate in London, Beautiful Thing follows the teenage life of two boys named Jamie and Ste. Both encounter different obstacles becoming who they are, including Jamie’s mum Sandra, played by Charlie Brooks of EastEnders’ fame. The development of their friendship is monitored closely by neighbour Leah, a school reject with an alter-ego of a 60’s pop star, who spends her hours living on the balcony in which their apartments meet. Jamie and Ste’s relationship unfolds and grows into something unexpected by many audience members as they explore the difficulties of the modern world.

As a younger audience member, I found Beautiful Thing to be one of the best shows that I have seen at the Playhouse. With it being a twist on the usual heterosexual love story, I thought that I would find it slightly awkward to sit through, but I really felt that it told a true tale of modern day society. The subject matter could have made for a very intense show, however any moment which seemed as if it was getting a bit full-on was counter-balanced by a comedic break or a pause in the action.

The story line was very engaging and the cast was perfect; with only 5 total cast members, the piece didn’t feel as if it carried any characters that lacked much background or meaning. Each member of the cast – consisting of Charlie Brooks, Thomas Law, Sam Jackson, Gerard McCarthy and Vanessa Babirye – really suited their roles and this very much made the play.

Stan Cook

Such a Beautiful Thing!
Director Nikolai Foster’s production of Beautiful Thing tells the heart-warming story of the romantic relationship between two boys, Jamie (Sam Jackson) and Ste (Thomas Law), set entirely in a rundown council estate in London.

The casting was faultless, especially Charlie Brooks as Jamie’s loud-mouthed mum, Sandra. Her portrayal of this feisty character was energetic and entertaining but Brooks also remained touchingly believable in her more subdued and emotional scenes. All the performances were wholly authentic, I felt as if I was sitting in the corridor of their flats observing rather than viewing a performance.

The story flowed seamlessly and the piece as a whole was staged attractively. I also enjoyed the use of music, such as Mama Cass and The Sound of Music, which lifted the piece during any transitions as well as setting each scene up with a particular atmosphere that would naturally stream into the action.
The set, made up of a wall with urban rubbish hanging from pipes and three doors, effectively depicted the grungy, littered flats the characters existed within, the doors were utilized to emphasize every character’s entrance or exit and helped maintain the play’s pace.

Beautiful Thing also takes the crown for the most I’ve ever laughed at a play; the slightly inappropriate jokes had me rolling in my seat but these were accompanied by muscle clenching moments of tension. In conclusion, I truly enjoyed Beautiful Thing, Jamie and Ste’s sweet relationship had me smiling from ear to ear and I left the theatre feeling feeling moved.

Maddy Chapman

‘I am Leah’
I’m feeling angry because I got kicked out of school. I felt bored and Mum wasn’t around so I was on my own. I really don’t understand why I got kicked out… it is not fair!

My mum tried to find a school but no news yet. I wish I could go back to school to learn and not stay at home all the time. I don’t think I will go to school because I don’t think they would want me, I don’t think the teachers like me. I thought I was going to stay at school but I was wrong. I need to have an education and learn new stuff but Mum can’t find me a school. I wish I could attend a good school and learn lots of things. School is actually alright to be honest. I don’t know why they kicked me out, but they did, and I think it is silly. I’m not going to get a good career and it is not fair… really it is not fair! I like seeing my friends, they’re great but I need to go back to school because it is the only way I’m going to learn.

I have two good friends, Jamie and Ste, and they are friends too. But I found out yesterday that they are partners and I was shocked! However, I had guessed that Jamie and Ste were seeing each other because I’d seen them often together. I remember when they were playing football and I wanted to join in and they said ‘NO!’ I took the football since they didn’t let me play and when I got home I felt disappointed. Since I’ve known for sure I’ve kept it to myself and haven’t told anyone about it. I don’t mind, I was just shocked that they hadn’t told me. I’ve known them for a long time and we are still good friends.

I am also their neighbour and sometimes they can be annoying but they can be nice to me too! Jamie’s mum is being nice to me now, whereas before she was mean to me. We are getting along better now. I guess things are getting better; everyone is being nice to me. I’m going to try and keep out of trouble and attend school starting from now…’

Chloe Brearley

All Love is Beautiful
What I first noticed about Beautiful Thing was the grey reality of the council estate where it was set. The set was designed from concrete walls littered with a surreal urban collage of things including TV aerials and a discarded trolley. This helped to create the claustrophobic atmosphere the two main characters felt around them as tension grew.

The play is about two boys in a rough area who are in love. When the play was made, it was quite ground-breaking at the time. However it obviously still has relevance today. It challenges us on what our image of love is, and how we as individuals consider homosexuality. I think that the acting was brilliant, and that all the characters, especially the main two, were very well rounded. Something that struck me all the way through was that the characters worked very well together. Each character often argued with the others, had tension between them, and also shared happier moments together. The comedy helped keep the play upbeat, and stopped many of the more serious scenes from being too depressing. The music was also uplifting; it featured Mama Cass’ songs as the background music and as music listened to by the characters. The dreamy music clashed with the bleak setting in a way that emphasised the character’s position as outsiders and the lyrics linked the character’s desire to escape their situation.

In conclusion, a superb performance with contrasting highs and lows, and a strong message that all love is beautiful.

Olivia Sandhu

Beautiful Thing at Nottingham Playhouse: Review
Beautiful Thing at the Nottingham Playhouse is an authentic and honest play about young love, set against the backdrop of a council estate in the 90s. It tells the story of two young men who fall for each other and explores how they and those close to them come together, come to accept their identities in a culture where homophobia is rife. Primarily it is a story about very real, human relationships and it touchingly explores the way love is expressed by individuals that have been toughened to express little emotion.

The performances of all of the cast members are superb; the most is made of every line and the subtlety of the colloquial text is translated with energy and humour. It is a naturalistic play that revolves around its small cast and drama is expertly balanced with comedy. The set is simplistic but exciting, with the doors of each of the character’s flats framing a courtyard where the action takes place. It recreates the setting and time period marvellously, aided by the costumes and realism of the acting. It is also notable that this is a play that champions homosexual relationships as just as real and valuable as heterosexual relationships but does not caracaturise them, which is important and commendable. I would highly recommend this hilarious and heartfelt interpretation to all.

Alice Malyon

WAS IT A BEAUTIFUL THING?
Beautiful Thing was performed at the Nottingham Playhouse and runs from the 21st April to the 9th May 2015. The playwright is Jonathan Harvey and it was first performed in 1993.

The play is about two teenagers called Jamie and Ste. Ste is trying to escape an abusive relationship with his father. He ends up sleeping head to tail with his neighbour Jamie. After that, their friendship starts to grow and something interesting happens. But you’ll have to find out for yourself what that is.
The set was interesting and I don’t think anyone expected it. I feel it enhanced the piece. The set made it look like an inner city estate. I thought the set designer did a very good job and it made the play even more believable.

The answer to the title is yes. In fact I think it was the best play I have watched in the critics circle so far. I would certainly recommend this play to anyone from Year 8 and up. I rate it 5 stars out of 5.

Ryan Dickson

Beautiful Thing – a very fitting title – unequivocally satisfies everyone’s hopeless-romantic side and leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy. The captivating, superbly crafted writing of Johnathon Harvey, combined with the energy and talent of the cast make a perfect match. You’re left with little choice but to feel for these people, who display such raw and real humanity.

Sandra, (Charlie Brooks) reckless and brash, but fundamentally hard-working and loving, is a single mother to Jamie (Sam Jackson) – a shy, discontented and thoughtful young lad. The parent and child bond is one that is captured exquisitely, displaying both raw moments of pure unconditional love and a heated deep feud in equal measure. Ste, (Thomas Law) Jamie’s neighbour and friend (turned romance) is an energised, hard-working boy who tries tirelessly to escape a home of abuse. Their relationship is one accomplished with delicacy and skill. Both displaying the core differences between them, but ultimately capturing the moments of hardship that unify them. A truly believable and warming relationship, beautifully displayed in moments of humour and intimacy.
Leah, a rebellious, Mama Cass-infatuated neighbour, and Tony, Sandra’s flamboyant new boyfriend act as a source of comic relief to the story. However, behind the humour are confessions of Leah’s troubles of loneliness and disinterest that hammer home the social issues raised within the piece, and add a new perspective and further dynamic.

The set communicates a contemporary and innovative twist on the urban setting. Confined walls display gridded rusted piping with typical urban findings (such as road signs and graffiti) encased in it, with street lamps, that aid the lighting, scattered randomly add further energy and youth to the piece by providing and intimate space that can simultaneously be brimming with energy.

A warming piece which themes still resonate with today’s audience. Press night received a stand-in-ovation, which I believe was most definitely deserved.

Nikki Charlesworth

Is Beautiful Thing Really Beautiful?
I don’t really know where to start with this play. It was the best production I have ever seen at any theatre, ever. It was a story about two gay boys growing up in Essex. There was some great acting from Charlie Brooks, Thomas Law and Sam Jackson. Three great actors. The staging was fantastic. I liked the way they showed gay people in a positive light, because not all plays have done that (not at the Playhouse.) Overall I think you should see it if you want to laugh, cry and witness a great production

Eve James

Who’s Your Beautiful Thing?
I thought that Beautiful Thing was a really moving performance that had humour in it as well. I would recommend this to any one above the age of 14 because it has a bit of bad language in it but it adds to the humour. I think it is trying to spread the message that you should be confident about yourself, no matter what.

The story is about two boys called Jamie and Ste, who fall in love with each other because Ste often has to stay at Jamie’s flat. Jamie lives with his mum Sandra and Ste lives with his dad who we don’t get to meet. Jamie and Ste’s next door neighbour Leah has been expelled from school. She is a big fan of the music of Mama Cass and also has a crush on Ste at the start. Find out more by going to watch the play.

I thought that the set was really inventive because they had three doors on some tiered staging at the front, and whichever room they were in they just used all the same doors. When they did scenes in Jamie’s bedroom they had a block which rose up from the stage that they unrolled a duvet cover and some pillows on to. Over all the set was really well thought out so that they didn’t have to keep bringing things on. I really enjoyed it and I thought that the set was really good so that’s why I would recommend it.

Caitlin Kupsa

Set outside three London flats, Beautiful Thing explores the love story of Jamie, a teenager who does not like games, and Ste- his neighbour. It watches Sandra, Jamie’s Mother, as she develops her relationship with Tony, the artist; and Leah, the neighbour, who’s Mama Cass obsession spirals out of control as she struggles to find a place to fit in.

Sam Jackson and Thomas Law- playing Jamie and Ste conveyed the emotion of the show well, bringing the humour and the darkness in equal measure. However, it was the women who stole the show. Both Vanessa Babirye (Leah) and Charlie Brooks (Sandra) created larger than life characters, who gained some of the biggest laughs from the audience, but also showed real intensity in their performances, especially in the scene where Leah is transformed into her idol- Mama Cass, and the final scene.

Apart from the wonderful acting, other highlights included the brilliant sound design by George Dennis- never allowing you to forget you were in the inner city, and using music (especially the nod to The Sound of Music) to great effect. Also, Colin Richmond’s design added another dimension to the show-the highlight of which was the bed that rose from the floor when the action transitioned from the outside landing to Jamie’s bedroom.

The show felt uplifting and optimistic- offering an alternative to the somewhat darker shows we have seen at the Playhouse in the last few months. Despite this, it also offered pauses from the jokes; tackling real issues such as domestic abuse, drug use and young people coming to terms with their sexuality. Beautiful Thing is a must-see, and runs at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 9th May 2015, and then on tour until 25th July.

Bronwen Webster

It Really is a Beautiful Thing
Simply stunning! Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing, directed by Nikolai Foster is possibly the best piece of theatre I’ve had the chance to see this year. It tells the story of two young boys living in South East London in 1993 who end up falling for each other. The play explores the complex relationships of the five characters; it delves into the social class system and highlights issues concerning domestic abuse.

Sam Jackson and Thomas Law both gave incredibly moving performance as Jamie and Ste. Charlie Brooks captured flawlessly the humorous and serious nature of Jamie’s mum, Sandra. The scenes where Sandra discovers Jamie’s sexual orientation were among the most touching of the play which really stood out with the strong performances from Brooks and Jackson. Among the complex themes of the play, Vanessa Babirye was able to create comic relief by playing Mama Cass-obsessed Leah which gave the audience quite a good laugh!

The scene changes are seamless, signified by a piece of music from the 90’s, giving the play a touch of nostalgia. The set is simplistic but extremely effective with three doors representing the neighbourhood. Most surprisingly was Jamie’s bed rising out of the ground. I have not been more emotionally involved with a piece of theatre for quite a while and would highly recommend you to see this. It captures the very essence of what it is to be a teenager.

Jess Johnstone

Beautifully Brilliant
First things first, I absolutely LOVED Beautiful Thing. It is the story of two teenage boys who fall for each other in a time when society is not as accepting of homosexuality. We follow Jamie (Sam Jackson) and Ste (Thomas Law) on the journey of their new relationship. The sheer simplicity of the story is what makes it so beautifully brilliant.

The casting of the piece is absolutely spot on. All five members of the cast give an extremely strong performance, particularly impression is Charlie Brooks. As I have never been a huge fan of EastEnders I didn’t have high hopes, but she has completely converted me! Her performance was superb and humorous. And she delivered an extremely strong emotional performance. A great talent!

I don’t know if it was because the boys in the show are the same age as me, or because I could relate to the humour, but I left the theatre feeling very touched, moved and happy. Ever since seeing Beautiful Thing, I have recommended it to several of my friends whether they are as theatre-loving as me or not! I’d definitely love to see Beautiful Thing again, and I urge you all to book tickets before it sells out.

Poppy Cook

Beautiful Thing is quite possibly the best play I have seen in a long while! Set on an urban estate, Beautiful Thing tells the story of how two teenage boys fall in love. The play documents their journey in accepting themselves for who they really are, while coping with one of their mother’s relationship with a younger boyfriend. I found Colin Richmond’s set particularly interesting as the garbage on the walls clearly represented the society that the characters were living in.

I thought the cast was perfect. The acting was incredible! The portrayal of each actor was strong and in such a manner that it was almost impossible to dislike them. They all kept up their strong London accents, making it truly convincing that they lived on a rough estate and thus, helping the audience understand why the boys would have trouble accepting and admitting their feelings for each other.

The costumes worked well to show their different personalities, in particular was Jamie’s smarter trousers contrasting with Ste’s sports trousers despite the fact they were both dressed in school uniform. I would strongly recommend this play to anyone – The crowd, from teenagers to people past their 60s all loved it! But do be mindful of the strong language used throughout. The play was genuinely a Beautiful Thing.

Georgie Daunt

Beautiful Thing Critics Circle Review
Beautiful Thing is a play about two young boys, Stie and Jamie, their friend Leah, who has been excluded from school, and their families, all of whom live in the same block of flats. Ste and Jamie fall in love, and the story is largely about them striving to find acceptance from friends and family. Ste is being abused by his father, and Jamie struggles to explain his feelings to his mother. The relationship between Jamie’s mother and her young, artist boyfriend Tony is also explored, along with Leah’s admiration of her idol, American singer Mama Cass.

I enjoyed Beautiful Thing very much. It was very funny, with many jokes that are relevant and amusing today. There were some references, however, that may not be understood by younger members of the audience. It had many poignant, emotional, heart-warming moments, particularly between the two boys, whose genuine, sweet and heart-warming relationship was portrayed beautifully. One such scene was when they were dancing at the end.

All the acting was amazing, the performances were strong and the characters very engaging. The set was clever, as it, along with the props, gave it an authentic, real feel, and made it feel very natural and as though I was there with the characters. It didn’t change much, so the show had a very concentrated, dramatic atmosphere, which made it entertaining.

It was light-hearted and fun and could be enjoyed by a wide variety of audiences of different ages, Every second was interesting: it’s the sort of play you don’t want to end.

Holly Jackson

Image is a visual response by Patrick Daunt