Tag Archives: Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge

Beautiful Thing

Beautiful Thing


Theatre Royal Stratford East

BEAUTIFUL THING at the Theatre Royal Stratford East


Beautiful Thing

“The pair have an enchanting chemistry – they perfectly capture the awkward nervousness of young love”

Jonathan Harvey’s coming-out and coming-of-age story Beautiful Thing was first performed at the Bush Theatre in 1993. Now, 30 years on, a revival – directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike – has graced the stage of London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East. Strikingly relevant to today and beautifully told, we follow 16-year-old neighbours Jamie (Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran) and Ste (Raphael Akuwudike) as their gentle love story unfolds within the tightknit working-class community of Thamesmead. Jamie clashes with his no-nonsense mother Sandra (Shvorne Marks) and her middle-class boyfriend Tony (Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge) whilst Ste struggles against his abusive, alcoholic father. School drop-out Leah (Scarlett Rayner) and her absent mother complete the trio of houses on which the play focuses.

Owokoniran, a last-minute replacement for Joshua Asaré who dropped out due to personal circumstances, shines in the lead role. He is best when leaning into his young character’s sweetness – parading around in the glasses that Ste likes is a particular highlight – and when wittily sparring with Sandra. Akuwudike does an excellent job at rendering Ste’s cheery disposition as well as his hesitancy and frustration at his family circumstances. The pair have an enchanting chemistry – they perfectly capture the awkward nervousness of young love and are totally believable in it.

Sandra evolves throughout the show and Marks brings a great empathy to her. A self-reliant single mother with a string of younger lovers, she is hurting and craves her son’s affection. Blackwood-Cambridge is hilarious as Tony. His overly sexual movement and mannerisms – directed by Annie-Lunette Deakin-Foster – are excellent. He fully embraces the absurdity of his ill-placed character. He does, however, also deliver real tenderness in his final scenes, elevating his character beyond the clown with great skill.

“It is funny, uplifting and has real heart.”

Rayner provides a great brashness to the proceedings and does great in the play’s climax when her character has a bad trip. She is an effective foil for the other characters – her need to interfere and ask difficult questions drives much of the plot.

Rosie Elnile has designed a gorgeous set. We see the cream concrete exterior of our protagonists’ respective flats. Jamie’s – at the centre – is a rose between two thorns, a basket of flowers and a freshly painted door brighten up the otherwise nondescript façade. Characters enter via the flats or the right-hand side of the stage. The only interior to which we are privy is Jamie’s bedroom – a single bed that juts out from the exterior wall of his flat towards the audience.

Excellent lighting (Elliot Griggs) works wonders to enhance the set. Between scenes, colourful filters coat the set as characters dance and move rhythmically around highlighting the emotion or dynamic(s) of the previous scene. In addition, the lighting is used to grow and reduce the space, most obviously when we are in Jamie’s bedroom, his bed spotlighted, the rest of the stage dimmed to hone our attention onto the single room.

The sound design (Xana) is also thoroughly distinctive – funky, almost Seinfeld-esque beats play to transition us from one scene to the next. The musical stylings of Mama Cass also feature heavily. Her music drifts out from super fan Leah’s flat and her song ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ is an anthem for Jamie and Ste’s acceptance of their sexuality.

Beautiful Thing is a thoroughly touching story of queer joy. It is funny, uplifting and has real heart. The cast bring strong and nuanced performances to their respective characters and the script is brilliantly quick. Time flies whilst watching this play and your cheeks will hurt from smiling at the charming tale. I could not recommend it enough.

BEAUTIFUL THING at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

Reviewed on 22nd September 2023

by Flora Doble

Photography by The Other Richard



Previously reviewed at this venue:


CAFÉ SOCIETY SWING   ★★★★★  June 2018

PYAR ACTUALLY   ★★★★  May 2018

SUMMER IN LONDON  ★★★★★  July 2017

TOMMY  ★★★★  June 2017

Beautiful Thing

Beautiful Thing

Click here to read all our latest reviews