Beautiful Thing turns 20
It's generally considered to be one of the most important coming out films of a generation, but Beautiful Thing started life as a play written by Jonathan Harvey (Gimme Gimme Gimme, Coronation Street). It opened at the Bush Theatre in London on July 28th 1993 and starred a very fresh faced looking Jonny Lee Miller as Ste, a physically and emotionally abused teenager who embarks on a voyage of sexual discovery with is neighbour Jamie. The play sold out its five-week run at the Bush Theatre before transferring to the Donmar Warehouse in central London. It then became a West End hit for almost a year at the Duke of York’s Theatre
In the past 20 years the play has been staged around the world and continues to warm the hearts of its audience. To commemorate the play's 20th anniversary it returns to London for the first time in eight years starring Suranne Jones (Coronation Street, Scott and Bailey).
Twitter @BeautThing Web www.beautthing.com
Jonathan Harvey talks about 'Beautiful Thing' . . .
"I wrote night and day, lying on my bed, typed my fingers to stubs, and sent the play off to three agents I picked at random from a book called The Writers And Artist’s Yearbook.
By the end of the school holiday one of the agents wrote back to me. He asked me in for a meeting. He said he loved the play and loved my writing. That agent was Alan Radcliffe. I stayed with him for years, til he gave up agenting as his son had been cast as Harry Potter in a film (Daniel Radcliffe. Whatever happened to HIM?) and he wanted to chaperone him.
In early 1992 I’d heard the writer Sue Townsend speak about her career. I’d loved her Adrian Mole books, and her plays, and was quite taken aback when she said, despite writing comedy, she felt she always wrote best when writing from a sense of anger or outrage. As I lay on my bed, wondering what to write about, I thought about what angered or outraged me.
Back then the world for gay people was a very different place. There were no ‘out’ gay TV presenters, not many gay characters on TV, visibility was pretty crap really. And the age of consent for gay men was 21, whereas it was 16 for heterosexuals. This angered me. It outraged me, even. And when I heard the subject being debated in the House of Lords, they kept going on about ‘buggery’ and ‘sodomy’. Was that really what being gay was all about? Not in my experience it wasn’t. It was about emotions, falling in love, being afraid to be different, being brave.
So, angered and outraged, I decided to write a story about two boys under 16 who fell in love. Simple as that. There was no gay equivalent of something like Beverly Hills 90210, where the geeky girl might get taken to the prom by the totally hot captain of the soccer team. So I decided to write it. A play where these two boys could find they had feelings for each other, act on them, and then for their truth to be discovered and actually, do you know what? It was okay. I also thought if I made it funny, more people might like it, and therefore more people might come and see it.
Beautiful Thing was first produced in the summer of 1993 at the Bush Theatre. A heavenly production that went above and beyond any expectations I had of the play. It then took on a life of its own. A tour, a West End run. Other theatres wanted to commission me on the back of it. Film Four asked me to make it into a movie. In the space of a few years I went from being a comprehensive school teacher to having two plays in the West End at the same time. It was mad. I probably went mad. Some might say I still am, but that’s another story.
I never ever thought, when lying on my bed in the summer of 1992, that it would become the oft performed piece that it is today. I was amazed it had that one production. I have no idea why people connect so well to it, I’m too close to it, it has meant so much in my life. Watching it now I watch like a proud parent, proud of the twenty four year old who lay on his bed, angered by legislation and creating a piece of 'art' out of it."
The new cast . . .
Suranne Jones (Sandra)
A single Mum to Jamie, pre-occupied with ambitious plans to run her own pub and with an ever-changing string of lovers. Sandra has a heart of gold and motherly instinct to rival a gorilla!
Danny-Boy Hatchard (Ste) - left
Lives together with his drug-dealing brother and abusive, alcoholic father in the flat next door.
Jake Davies (Jamie) - right
Infatuated with his classmate and neighbour Ste.
A sensitive soul, Beautiful Thing is really his story.
Oliver Farnworth (Tony)
A neo-hippy and current squeeze of Sandra. Tony tries (and tries) to connect with Jamie and offer a substitute for his absent father. Often misunderstood but always with good intentions!
Zaraah Abrahams (Leah)
A sassy neighbour who has been expelled from school and constantly listens and sings along to her mother's Mama Cass records.