by Jonathan Harvey.
Arts Theatre 6–7 Great Newport Street WC2H 7JB To 25 May 2013.
Mon–Sat 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 836 8463.
Review: William Russell 17 April.
A beautifully told tale but a fairy tale
Jonathan Harvey’s play about two teenagers on the dreary south London Thamesmead estate who fall in love was first seen in London in 1994, was a hit, went on to be produced all over the world to great acclaim, and filmed two years later.
It is very funny – Harvey has a marvellous way with the telling one-liner, although every now and then they seem too good for the character uttering them to have thought up. It is unique in that it is a play about a gay relationship which works out happily enough and not a drama about aids, doom, gloom and neurotic queens heading for death and disaster, which were the fashion at the time.
The boys live next door. Sandra (Suranne Jones), mother of Jamie, the younger one, a barmaid and a bit of a slapper, proves understanding when she discovers he is gay as does her latest man played by Oliver Farnsworth. The other boy Ste has an abusive drunken father who beats him up, so occasionally he takes refuge for the night next door, sleeping head to toe with his friend. There is also Leah, a young girl neighbour played by Zaraah Abrahams, an outcast from school, who has taken refuge in self-harm and pretending she is Mama Cass.
A well-crafted piece, it gets splendid performances. Jones as the mother is gloriously hard-boiled, while Jake Davies (Jamie) and Danny-Boy Hatchard (Ste) are very touching as the boys discover their sexuality.
But is it relevant to today, was it relevant then? Has Harvey anything to say about anything? In 1994 it broke new ground, but it was, and remains, comfort theatre rather than a play which looks at what the boys would have faced on being outed.
They realise there is nothing shameful about being gay, the mother gets a new pub job, and yet another period pop tune fills the air to cheer us up. The chances are they will all move away from grotty Thamesmead to Rotherhithe and live happily ever after – apart from Sandra’s soppy boyfriend, who is about to get the push.
Jamie: Jake Davies.
Leah: Zaraah Abrahams.
Sandra: Suranne Jones.
Ste: Danny-Boy Hatchard.
Tony: Oliver Farnworth.
Director: Nikolai Foster.
Designer/Costume: Colin Richmond.
Lighting: David Plater.
Sound: George Dennis.
Dialect coach: Sally Hague.
Fight director: Kate Waters.