Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre is set to stage a major revival of Jonathan Harvey’s celebrated play Beautiful Thing - eighteen years after it first took London’s West End by storm.

Often described as an urban fairytale, the play is set on an inner city urban housing estate. It tells the story of Jamie’s relationship with classmate and neighbour Ste. Together the two boys find comedy, warmth and the music of Mama Cass. The play exquisitely depicts what it is to be sixteen, in the first flush of love and full of optimism.  

Jonathan Harvey wrote Beautiful Thing when he was 23. Just three months after he submitted it to the Bush Theatre in London, it was given its premiere in what was to become a legendary opening night. The play went on to be a West End hit, sold out its five-week run and won its author an Olivier nomination and the John Whiting Award.

Now in 2011 the play is eighteen years old and has come of age. Director Sarah Frankcom feels it is the perfect time to revisit it. She said: “I have a very personal relationship with this play. I went to one of the very first preview performances of the original production and it was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life.”

This will be the first major production of the play for five years – and the first ever in-the-round. It will pose the questions: ‘Have the messages of tolerance and acceptance been an accurate prophesy of the future?’ and ‘How does the optimism of the play sit with audiences of today?’

Tommy Vine (whose recent credits include the film Top Boy for Channel 4) plays Ste; Matthew Tennyson (whose recent theatre work includes Flare Path at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket plays Jamie and Tara Hodge (last seen at the Exchange in Mogadishu) plays Leah. The cast also includes Claire-Louise Cordwell, as Sandra and Alex Price as Tony.

The production will also feature members of Manchester’s Gay and Lesbian Chorus. The creative team – is completed by Liz Ascroft (design), Johanna Town (lighting) and Peter Rice (sound).

Harvey is an award-winning playwright whose other plays include The Cherry Blossom Tree (Liverpool Playhouse Studio) Wildfire (Royal Court); Babies (National Theatre Studio/Royal Court), George Devine Award and Evening Standard's Most Promising Playwright Award; Boom Bang-A-Bang (Bush Theatre); Hushabye Mountain (ETT/Hampstead) and Out In The Open (Hampstead/Birmingham Rep). Television and film work includes: West End Girls (Carlton); Beautiful Thing (Channel Four) and Gimme Gimme Gimme (BBC). Since 2004 he has been a regular scriptwriter for Coronation Street.

Beautiful Thing is at the Royal Exchange, Manchester from 9 November - 3 December.