Beautiful Thing (play)

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Beautiful Thing
Written by Jonathan Harvey
Date premiered1993
Genre Comedy
SettingCouncil estate, South London

Beautiful Thing is a play written by Jonathan Harvey and first performed in 1993. A screen adaptation of the play was released in 1996 by Channel 4 Films, [1] with a revised screenplay also by Harvey.

Jonathan Paul Harvey, is an English playwright whose work has earned many awards.

<i>Beautiful Thing</i> (film) 1996 film by Hettie MacDonald

Beautiful Thing is a 1996 British film directed by Hettie MacDonald and released by Channel 4 Films. The screenplay was written by Jonathan Harvey based on his own original play of the same name.

Film4 Productions British film production company

Film4 Productions is a British film production company owned by Channel Four Television Corporation. The company has been responsible for backing many films made in the United Kingdom. The company's first production was Walter, directed by Stephen Frears, which was released in 1982. It is especially known for its gritty, kitchen sink-style films and period drama.


Plot of the Screen Version

The story is set in Thamesmead, a working class area of South East London dominated by post-war council estates. [2] [3]

Thamesmead district of south-east London, England

Thamesmead is a district in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Bexley in the United Kingdom. It is located 11 miles (18 km) east of Charing Cross, mainly consisting of social housing built from the mid-1960s onwards on former marshland on the south bank of the River Thames, northeast of Woolwich and west of Belvedere.

Jamie, a teen who is infatuated with his classmate, Ste, has to deal with his single mother Sandra, who is pre-occupied with ambitious plans to run her own pub and with an ever-changing string of lovers, the latest of whom is Tony, a neo-hippie. Sandra finds herself at odds with Leah, a sassy and rude neighbour who has been expelled from school, does several drugs, and constantly listens and sings along to her mother's Cass Elliot records. While Jamie's homosexuality remains concealed, his introvert nature and dislike of football are reason enough for his classmates to bully him at every opportunity.

Pub drinking establishment

A pub, or public house, is an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, which traditionally include beer and cider. It is a social drinking establishment and a prominent part of British, Irish, Breton, New Zealand, South African and Australian cultures. In many places, especially in villages, a pub is the focal point of the community. In his 17th-century diary Samuel Pepys described the pub as "the heart of England".

Hippie diminutive pejorative of hipster: 1960s counterculture participant

A hippie is a member of the counterculture of the 1960s, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The word hippie came from hipster and was used to describe beatniks who moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. The term hippie first found popularity in San Francisco with Herb Caen, who was a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Cass Elliot American recording artist; singer, record producer

Cass Elliot, also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and actress, best known as a member of The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. In 1998, she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her work with the Mamas & the Papas.

Ste, who is living together with his drug-dealing brother and abusive, alcoholic father in the flat next door, is one night beaten by his father so badly that Sandra takes pity and lets him sleep over. In the absence of a third bed, Ste has to make do with sleeping 'top-to-toe' with Jamie. On the second night they share a bed: after a massage and a minor conversation, the boys soon change sleeping arrangements and Jamie kisses Ste for the first time.

The next morning, Ste panics and leaves before Jamie awakens, avoiding him for days. Jamie works up the nerve to steal a Gay Times from a newsagent, apparently starting to accept his sexuality and affection for Ste. Jamie finally spots Ste at a nearby party and confronts him; they prepare to leave together. The party ends badly, with Sandra taking vengeance on Leah for gossiping, who then threatens to 'spill the beans' about Ste and Jamie and confesses to having covered up for Ste in front of his father and brother. Ste reacts poorly, angrily rejecting Jamie and running away.

<i>Gay Times</i> LGBTQ media brand

Gay Times, also known as Gay Times Magazine, is a LGBTQ media brand established in 1984. Originally beginning as a magazine for gay and bisexual men, the company now includes content for the LGBTQ community across a number of platforms.

Slowly, Ste accepts Jamie's love and their relationship begins to develop as they visit a gay pub together. Sandra follows them and discovers their secret, and the story reaches its climax as a bad trip by Leah (on an unnamed drug) precipitates Sandra's breakup with Tony; the news of Sandra's new job comes out; and Sandra confronts Ste and Jamie. Sandra comes to accept her son's relationship.

Gay bar Drinking establishment for LGBTQ+ people

A gay bar is a drinking establishment that caters to an exclusively or predominantly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clientele; the term gay is used as a broadly inclusive concept for LGBT and queer communities.

A bad trip is a frightening and unpleasant experience triggered by psychoactive drugs, especially psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms.

The play ends with the two boys slow-dancing in the courtyard of their council flats to the Cass Elliot song "Dream a Little Dream of Me", while a guarding Sandra dances defiantly at their side with Leah as the local residents look on; some of them shocked, some of them enjoying the moment themselves.

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  1. Derek Elley (10 March 1996). "Beautiful Thing". Variety. p. 77. Pic, which also unspools at this year's AFM, had buyers scrambling for their cell phones in the Berlin market and is rumored to be a contender for a spot in the sun at Cannes. Its world preem is set for March 28 in the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
  2. Benedict Nightingale (3 August 1993). "If only things were so simple". The Times. Into the Bush we go and what strikes our eager eyes? Concrete paving, grey stucco walls, drab doors with 368, 369 and 370 embossed on them, and, as a feeble protest against the gloom, a few flowerpots and plaster dwarfs. This is the third floor of a council estate in Thamesmead, and as unlikely a setting for a play called Beautiful Thing as Buckingham Palace's gardens would be for Les Miserables.
  3. "The council cries foul play". Evening Standard. 24 November 1994. p. 43. Jonathan Harvey's West End hit Beautiful Thing is 'sickening' – that's official – as far as Bexley Borough Council is concerned. Harvey's play, about gay love is, of course, set in Thamesmead, part of which falls under the council's aegis. You might think fame for the borough would fill the breast of Bexley Tory councillor Graham R Holland, but no. The Duke of York's Theatre last week received a very severe letter from him on the council's headed paper. It criticises the billing of Harvey's gay love story as a comedy, and says the Holland family were 'intimidated' by gays in the bar and that they found 'the sight of older men with young lads was sickening, if legal'. He goes on to complain about the play's 'sordid' language: 'It was gratuitous, foul and offensive and was neither relevant nor, with my experience of Thamesmead ... in any way typical of the young people with whom I am in contact.' The shocked family group left after 20 minutes.
  4. 1 2 Nightingale, Benedict (25 September 1994). "EUROPE: THE NEW SEASON; A City of Many Stages". The New York Times .
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  17. Gooderham, Ryan (20 February 2017). "Poster: Beautiful Thing 2017". Facebook. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.