Review of Beautiful Thing

Edmonton Sun

Publication Date: 11 February, 2010

By Colin Maclean

★★★1/2 out of 5

Back in the 1960s in Britain, social-realism theatre called “kitchen sink” developed in reaction to the genteel works typically on British stages.

It often depicted the bleak domestic situations of the British poor living in gritty sections of big cities. They spoke not in the plummy tones of Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde but in the rough accents and (often expletive-laced) street slang of their settings.

Beautiful Thing, the current play at Walterdale Theatre is set in industrial London in the ’90s. Jamie (Doran Werner) is nearly 16, and constantly squabbling with his feisty barmaid mother, Sandra (Amelia Duplessis).

Mom has a squawk like a deranged seagull and, in Duplessis’s accent (until you get used to it), she’s almost incomprehensible. Sandra has always considered her child as kind of weird because he seemed more interested in old movies than kicking a football around. Their next door neighbour, Ste, is also 16.

His father is a drunken beast so Ste spends many nights avoiding his father’s beatings,sleeping over at Jamie’s flat next door.

In a charming, gentle scene the boys discover (hesitantly) that they share sexual interests and the rest of the play examines how they cope with their growing desires in a world that is not exactly sympathetic to their orientation.

The discovery also brings out some unexpected emotions in those around them — including Tony (Randy Brososky), Sandra’s lover, and Leah (Maura Frunza), the teen next door who has been kicked out of school and spends all day listening to Mama Cass and imagining herself a singing star.

Just[e]n Bennett’s workman-like production gets the job done.

The cast gives natural and convincing portraits in accents that ring true. It takes a while to understand what they are saying but it’s worth the effort because the musicality of the delivery sets a real sense of time and place.

The two boys cope with their sexual awakening differently but develop a real sense of caring in a world where desperation and violence are often the norm. Brososky, an old hand at this sort of thing, generates a laugh every time he wanders amiably on stage with his loping gate and laconic delivery. Duplessis’ brash, sassy Sandra goes through the biggest arc in the play and handles the transformation to a kind of hardbitten tenderness with subtlety.

Bennett’s production is joyous and touching.

It shows the tenderness of young love (and the awkwardness and humour) can bring much, not only to the two at the centre of it all, but to everyone who is touched by the miracle.

A beautiful thing.