Review: Beautiful Thing 'is hugely watchable' at the Abbey Theatre

PUBLISHED: 13:06 13 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:21 13 February 2019

Company of Ten's production of Beautiful Thing can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans this week. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.

Company of Ten's production of Beautiful Thing can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans this week. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.

Abbey Theatre

Madeleine Burton reviews Beautiful Thing at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Company of Ten's production of Beautiful Thing at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.Company of Ten's production of Beautiful Thing at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.

There is no getting away from it – Beautiful Thing, the play currently being performed by the Company of Ten, really is a beautiful thing.

It is the sort of play that not only makes you think but combines an unexpected tenderness and perspicacity.

Many audiences would not expect to find that in a play set on a downtrodden Thamesmead housing estate in summer 1993.

Played out on a superb Company of Ten set on the Abbey Theatre main stage, Beautiful Thing explores several relationships not least that which develops between adolescent neighbours Jamie and Ste.

Company of Ten's production of Beautiful Thing at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.Company of Ten's production of Beautiful Thing at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre.

While their growing feelings for one another are a key element of the play, a number of relationships are explored including one where you never see two of the main characters.

That is between Ste and his drunken father and brother who do not make an appearance but use their fists and belts as a brutal method of communication.

Tom Brooker as Ste captures the mixture of bravado and vulnerability that results and leads to his relationship with the far shyer Jamie, played perceptively by Isaac Morris.

But the really touching relationship is that between Jamie and his mum Sandra.

Brilliantly played by Melanie Wall, the potty-mouthed Sandra is more than happy to describe Elouise Wathen’s Leah as ‘a slag’ and shout abuse at Ste’s father through the door.

Yet her love and concern for her son is so palpable that she emerges as the most caring character in the play.

Leah does not have that parental support and Elouise brings great understanding to the role of a lost youngster, expelled from school and fixated on the music of Mama Cass.

You fear for her future but not for Jamie’s with Sandra always ready to fight for him.

Completing the cast is Joel Reynolds Corless as Sandra’s current boyfriend Tony, who comes into his own as he tries to deal with Leah in a drug-induced stupor.

Director Beccy Baird says in her programme notes that she has always loved Jonathan Harvey’s play and it shows.

Not only does she coax first-rate performances from her largely young cast but emphasises the belief that redemption can be found in even the most underprivileged lives.

Beautiful Thing is hugely watchable as witnessed by the reaction to Friday’s performance and the production warrants a far larger audience than it had that night.

Catch it by calling the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

It runs until Saturday, February 16.

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