By Zachary Sweeney-Lynch
Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey, and directed by Sussex student Jonathan Bensusan Bashis an endearing coming of age story set on a council estate in South East London, telling the story of a dysfunctional family and the journey of their son towards embracing his sexuality. Jamie (played by John McKenna Hughes), bullied at school for his femininity and dislike for football, falls in love with Ste (Alex Holliday), the boy next door who is regularly beaten by his alcoholic father. One night Ste is beaten so badly that Sandra (Claire Bennathan), Jamie’s mother, who has an ever-changing string of lovers, takes pity on him and allows him to sleep over. He sleeps ‘top-to-toe’ with Jamie in his bed and their relationship blossoms from there. You follow their journey from embarrassment and confusion over who they are, to acceptance from both themselves and the people around them. The fairly formulaic nature of their coming of age love story was counterbalanced by the chaos of their situation, making the tenderness of their relationship in the moments they had alone even more touching. Sandra’s mouthiness and the sass of Leah (Sascha Schinder), a disruptive neighbour who had been expelled from school, provided the perfect foil to the affection of Ste and Jamie’s relationship. The chaos that surrounded their every move made the boys struggle to find themselves all the more believable, while creating moments that made you genuinely laugh out loud. Tony (Will Johnson), Sandra’s latest boyfriend was suitably irritating, and the other characters increasing impatience with him was amusing. The production found a perfect balance between humour and sensitivity that made both elements more effectual.
Having recently witnessed an abomination of drama at a professional theatre in Brighton and Hove that avid followers of The Badger’s cutting edge theatre supplement may remember, this student play was refreshingly simple and well done. The acting was extremely good, and the relationship between the characters believable and heartfelt. Each of them had their flaws but it is testament to the actors that the audience left with genuine warmth and affection to each one. The staging was simple and effective, allowing the audience to focus on the relationships between characters that were obviously central. It was well directed and the soundtrack of Cass Elliot songs, that Leah obsessed over, created beautiful moments. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening.