Jonathan Harvey’s “urban fairytale” Beautiful Thing will next month receive its first London production in over a decade with a limited season at Leicester Square’s Sound Theatre, which, now under new management, will act primarily as a receiving rather than a producing house. Directed by Toby Frow, it will run from 12 January (preview 11 January) to 11 February 2006.
The production follows the planned run of alternative Christmas show, Snow! The Musical, which closed at the Leicester Square venue just a week after its press performance. Opened on 18 November (previews from 15 November), the musical comedy had been booking at the Leicester Square venue until 7 January 2006, but it had its last performance on 3 December 2005 (See News, 5 Dec 2005).
The failure of Snow! heralded the demise of Kit Productions, the force behind the launch of the 200-seat Sound Theatre, a studio space converted from a former nightclub, in June (See News, 25 May 2005). Kit’s aim was to create a theatre dedicated to presenting new writing and giving a voice to new acting, directing and writing talent and offering affordable tickets at just £15 (£10 concessions) in order to attract new and younger audiences.
However, Kit’s Christopher Perkin told The Stage newspaper that their trustees had pulled financial backing after poor reviews for Snow! resulted in small houses. “It’s a very difficult time to establish a new theatre,” he said. “When you’re on a tight budget and things don’t quite go your way, it hits you hard.” The theatre is now being managed by the property’s landlords, with a more hard-nosed commercial remit as a receiving house.
Beautiful Thing is set during a long, hot summer on the Thamesmead Estate in South East London, where two teenage boys gradually discover their mutual affection and love. The play, which received its world premiere at the Bush Theatre in 1993, won the John Whiting Award in 1994 following a revival and tour, which ended at the Donmar Warehouse and then transferred to the West End’s Duke of York’s.
Harvey’s other plays include Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club, Guiding Star, Hushabye Mountain, Out in the Open and Babies, which won him both the George Devine Award and the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright Award. Harvey’s screen work includes the adaptation of Beautiful Thing as well as series like Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, At Home with the Braithwaites and Coronation Street.
Frow's recent work includes Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at the Northampton Theatre Royal, A View From the Bridge at the Birmingham Rep and West Yorkshire Playhouse and the National Theatre tour of The Pillowman.
The cast includes Naomi Bentley as Leah, Leo Bill as Tony, Gavin Brocker making his professional debut as Ste, Andrew Garfield (who previously appeared in The Laramie Project at the Sound) as Jamie and Sophie Stanton reprising her role as Sandra from the original production at the Bush Theatre.
Beautiful Thing is designed by Ben Stones, with lighting by Emma Chapman. It’s presented by NML Productions. Tickets are priced from £10 to £20.
- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock