Review: Beautiful Thing
Life from another view
The purpose of art is to present the world from another point of view. It’s a seed of experience that grows into a wild flower, spreading its roots throughout the mind of its viewers, showing its glory to the outside world. Fundamentally, the role of art is to make you feel. I certainly felt a lot during "Beautiful Thing".
"Beautiful Thing" presented the world from a perspective I simply don’t have access to as a heterosexual male; that is, the hardships of growing up as a young LGBT person, and the additional hardships this puts upon on any loving relationship. To be shown such a world by such a confident cast was not only a pleasure, but a privilege.
"Beautiful Thing" follows 15-year-old Jamie and his love for his classmate Ste. The boys' romantic feelings for each other develop over several periods of Ste sharing Jamie’s bed after Ste bravely leaves his abusive father. Beyond this, the play explores equally complex topics, such as abusive parents, friendship and family. All in all it’s got something for everybody.
The story, for the most part, is a beautiful tale of young love in early 90s London. I truly felt a deep sympathy for the struggles of Jamie and his search for love and affection from both his mother and Ste. I also felt Ste's anguish after the numerous instances of physical abuse he received. The story did feel it lost its way at some points, taking some peculiar turns that didn’t serve the narrative and, in ways, detracted from it. However, although I did feel myself being pulled out of the story at times, I was certainly never pulled out of the performance.
The cast are gifted. I mean truly gifted. Having the ability to step onto that stage, and to load yourself with such charged emotion is breathtaking. I want to pay my particular compliments to the actors playing Jamie and Ste. With every word of Jamie's I felt his pain of being an outcast, of being weird. I could feel the want in every quiver of his voice as he spoke to Ste, and I could see the happiness in his face when they kissed. With every raised voice of Ste I could hear the bricks of abuse being laid, and with every conversation with Jamie I could hear them be knocked down.
The rest of the cast were also a pleasure to watch, each of which having an extremely good eye for the comedy written between the lines. This, in such an emotionally complex production, can be difficult to do correctly, in a way that serves the characters whilst not removing the depth of the story. There was a good balance between laughs, sadness and happiness.
There is one comment I would like to make, and this reflects nothing on the cast nor the story, but the audience. There were several moments when a character presented a feature of their sexuality, or performed an action, in a way that, in my opinion, did not seem comedic in nature (and I am very willing to admit that maybe by my own bias I couldn't see the comedy). Giggles were heard in the audience. Not many, but still a few. Those laughs were not wanted. They turn a struggle into a bad joke. They turned pain into a weakness, when it is showing the weakness that makes us strong.
I want to emphasise again that this is merely my opinion and if anything, shows the abilities of the cast and crew. In face of the stigma still surrounding the topic choice, they presented a novel and enjoyable point of view of the world. They allowed me, if only for a moment to escape myself and indulge in the lives of others. They highlighted to me the disparity between not only my views and the cast and crew, but also other audience members. That is the power of art. That is its purpose.