A Beautiful Thing has alighted at the Playhouse. Since its premiere in 1993 it has been given many productions around the world, made into a film, won awards and become a set text for numerous schoolchildren.
It is amazingly twenty years old and this current production is a celebration of its anniversary. As the programme notes by the director Nikolai Foster say, ‘even plays from last year are dated but this play remains current and has a great deal to say about our society’.
He is right. The characters and their relationships will never date. It shows the wonderful and painful moments of youth; the loves and hates; the confusions and the clarity mixed with the confidence and the fear. It is both ‘laugh out loud’ funny and gently comic whilst being touching and poignant. Those who know that Jonathan Harvey writes for Coronation Street will recognise his ability to be funny and moving at the same time.
The first half takes a while to get going – we meet the characters in a series of short scenes but the laughs are only almost there, getting to know these people remains elusive and the drama (the fight between mother and son should wring them and us out) doesn’t hit home quite as it should. But the peppermint foot lotion sequence has tenderness and a breathless hush descends on the audience.
However, if Act One doesn’t set alight the second half makes up for this and more. The bedroom scene between Jamie and Mum is a wonderful piece of theatre courtesy of the writer, actors and director.
Colin Richmond has created a simple set that captures the ambience perfectly – you can almost hear the neighbours breathing so close are these people thrown together. But why when there is so much space on stage do some characters enter from the audience? It breaks the illusion of reality.
Suranne Jones captures every facet of Sandra. She is brash, tough, sexy and yet at the same time vulnerable. She shows all the vices of the bad mother and yet comes up trumps as the good mother. Her switches from stinging one-liners to heartfelt emotion really strike home as real and true.
Described as an ‘urban fairytale’ the play has a happy ending (but ever after?) and will grow on you during the evening to send you out satisfied as in all good fairytales. Do go and do buy a programme to read both before and after the performance Nikolai Foster’s perceptive notes.