Tag Archives: Jonathan Harvey

Beautiful Thing – 3 Stars


Beautiful Thing

Greenwich & Docklands Festival

Reviewed – 4th July 2018


“Visually, ‘Beautiful Thing’ is a feast of glowing colours, striking shadows and moving images”


Community – its infrastructure, its buildings, its people and its history – is at the heart of this new dance-theatre production of Jonathan Harvey’s ‘Beautiful Thing’. Taking place entirely in and around a block of the now-abandoned Binsey Walk estate (famously used in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’), Bradley Hemmings and Robby Graham’s production brings a coming-of-age love story home to its original setting – and what a setting.

The story will be familiar to some: Two Binsey Walk lads overcome parental woes and scholastic strife to find love. Hemmings and Grahams have crafted an almost wordless show that episodically retells the development of Ste and Jamie’s relationship like a greatest hits medley of the original film. Obviously intended to please crowds of Thamesmead locals and members of the LGBTQ+ community old enough (sorry!) to remember the 1993 film, the show relies on full-blown spectacle to impress and amuse, making use of the large outdoor space to bring in the 180-bus to Greenwich, cars, a VW campervan and even a JCB pickup. Visually, ‘Beautiful Thing’ is a feast of glowing colours, striking shadows and moving images. The housing block becomes a canvas for colourful and explosive projections that look cool but fail to contribute more than just showing the action we are already witnessing up-close. When Sandra learns her son could be gay, photos and film clips of her young son invite the audience into her internal world and proves one of the most moving moments of the show.

The choreography is fairly one-dimensional and underdeveloped, not quite catching the nuances of the story or characters. Despite having a huge playground, the energetic and impassioned performers are often trapped in small rooms and get lost in the spectacle of light and sound. Phil Supple’s lighting design is astonishingly good, giving each house and room a colour and identity, turning the block from dull estate to vibrant gay club in a flash.

Binsey Walk itself is the star attraction here. Some hate British post-war architecture, but here the building is let loose, representing something more than the sterility and poverty usually associated with British housing estates. The team could definitely have gone farther than just giving what it knows its audience will recognise and love. Ste and Jamie’s story feels somewhat dated, and this production taps into nostalgia rather than a re-telling of the story for a new generation of young gay men.

This historic site is about to become victim to the bulldozer. Crossrail looms. Communities and how they interact in Thamesmead, and indeed London, have changed a lot in twenty-five years. But by literally letting the audience see how the communal spirit tucked inside a place like Binsey Walk can produce a positive story of diversity, understanding, support and love against the odds, we are reminded that community is still out there for us to find, and it’s through others that our true selves can come into their own.


Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by  Camilla Greenwell 


Beautiful Thing

Greenwich & Docklands Festival until 7th July



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Book by Jonathan Harvey

Directed by Maria Friedman



DUSTY, the first authorised new musical charting the life of Dusty Springfield is set to premiere in the UK in 2018. Details of dates, venue and casting are still to be announced.

Originating from the notes and memoirs of the late singer’s close friend and manager Vicki Wickham, DUSTY is written by Jonathan Harvey who tells the story behind this iconic artist having interviewed key people from her life including Pat Rhodes, Dusty’s lifelong personal assistant, and friend and record company executive Tris Penna.

DUSTY will be directed by Olivier Award winning Maria Friedman.

Dusty Springfield is one Britain’s most successful and enduringly popular singers, with hits spanning four decades. Born in London, she became known across the world for her soulful voice and iconic look. Her solo career began way back in 1963, and included the global hits “I Only Want to Be with You”, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’ with the Pet Shop Boys. Her 1969 masterpiece ”Dusty In Memphis’ is considered one of the greatest albums of all time and Dusty has been inducted into both the US Rock and Roll and UK Music Halls of Fame.

Jonathan Harvey wrote his first play in 1987, and has since written over 15 more, including Babies, Boom Bang-A-Bang and Beautiful Thing, which was later made into an acclaimed film. He has been the recipient of the Evening Standard, George Devine and John Whiting Awards, and his work has been both Bafta- and Olivier-nominated. Jonathan’s extensive television writing includes Coronation Street, on which he has worked since 2004, Beautiful People and Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. He has also written for shows as diverse as Rev, Shameless, At Home With The Braithwaites, The Catherine Tate Show and Tracey Ullman’s Show. He has also published five novels and been hailed as ‘the new theatrical voice of his generation’.

Best known as a three-time Olivier Award winning star of the musical stage, director Maria Friedman made an astonishing directorial debut in 2012 with a hugely acclaimed production of Merrily We Roll Along which won Best Musical at the Evening Standard Awards 2013, the Oliver Awards 2014 (for which Maria was also nominated for Best Director of a Musical), and the Critic’s Circle Award 2013. She went on to direct High Society at The Old Vic in 2015 and is currently directing Stepping Out which will play the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre from March 2017.

DUSTY is produced by Eleanor Lloyd Productions whose recent projects include Nell Gwynn with Gemma Arterton, Olivier Award for Best Comedy (Apollo), 1984 (Playhouse, 2014, 2015 & 2016), My Night with Reg, Olivier Nomination for Best Revival (Apollo), and Handbagged, Olivier Nomination for Best Comedy, (Vaudeville and UK tour).