On a cold Monday evening, there is no better place to go to than a cosy warm theatre to see Lace Market Theatre’s production of Beautiful Things, written by Jonathan Harvey and wonderfully directed by Bex Mason. So that is exactly what I did.
Harvey’s story follows Jamie, a fifteen year-old boy living on a council estate with his mother Sandra and her hippie boyfriend Tony. Nearby also resides two neighbours, Ste and Leah, and soon Jamie and Ste discover feelings for each other. In their uneasy, prejudiced home environment, both feel they have to hide their affections – particularly against Ste’s abusive father.
But the play was still filled with plenty of wonderful ‘awww’ moments, and you really do fall in love the characters. And when you’re sitting in the audience you become totally immersed, thanks largely to the actors who did an amazing job portraying such well-rounded characters. The chemistry between all the actors was brilliant, but this was especially true with Ste (Sean Radford) and Jamie (Jak Truswell).
That said, the relationship between Sandra (Jemma Froggitt) and Tony (Damian Frendo) was simply hilarious – even if her narrative arch sees her come to a realisation of how smothering he really is. Frequently she lavishly pours her heart to the audience about the difficulties to being a single mother, and these generous bits of direct appeal also sit nicely beside Leah’s wonderful, light-hearted singing, portrayed expertly by Rosina Reading. Between them, this cast vividly brings to life a world that is at once both harsh and beautiful, endearing and daunting.
Equally the scenery, designed by Max Bromley, really helped reinforce the atmosphere of the piece too. Along with the lights and sound (by Kerry Newcombe, Charlie Bailey and Peter Hodgekinson), Bromley’s cleverly constructed setting made the audience feel like omniscient witnesses to an unravelling, innocent romance. The positioning of the bedroom next to the main stage was ingenious and really leant it a sense of privacy and cosiness for us as viewers.
It should also be mentioned that, although the play sticks mainly to the original script, Bex Mason did cleverly change some of the older 90’s references in the play to ones that could relate to a contemporary audience. But in reality, that too helped us slide into this sense of being behind closed doors, because these updated references once again made Beautiful Thing feel like it could be set in our very own neighbourhood again.
So overall Beautiful Things proved to be a must watch for those that need their heart warmed this winter! The performances are at The Lace Market Theatre continue to be excellent, and readers really should keep an eye out LMT’s future productions.
Grainne Pearson Cockrill