|Amy Kowalczuk (Sandra) - Nick Dyball (Jamie)|
Written by Jonathan Harvey - Directed by Jarrad West
Set designed by Isaac Riley - Lighting designed by Roni Wilkinson
Sound designed by Nathan Patrech - Costumes designed by Emma Batchelor.
Presented by Everyman Theatre – ACT HUB - 5th – 15th October.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
|Liam Prichard (Ste) - Nick Dyball (Jamie)|
ACTHUB is rapidly gaining a reputation as the go-to place in Canberra to see interesting plays featuring talented actors in excellent productions. “Beautiful Thing” is an excellent example of why this is the case.
Premiered in 1993 this perceptive play was written at a time when the age of consent for homosexual sex was still 21. It follows the lives of single mother, Sandra and her 15 year-old son Jamie, who live in a housing estate in southeast London. Jamie is uncommunicative and unco-operative and refuses to go to school, despite the best efforts of Sandra or her current boyfriend, Tony, to make him.
|Colin Giles (Tony) - Nick Dyball (Tony) - Amy Kowalczuk (Sandra|
Their neighbours include Leah, who lives next door and is besotted with Mamma Cass; and another boy, Ste, who lives with his abusive father. When Jamie and Ste begin to realise that their relationship is more that ‘just friends’ it sets off a chain of events which force all involved to re-examine and re-evaluate their deepest feelings.
Isaac Riley’s attractive transverse setting provides a cheerful environment for the action. Representing the courtyard of a modern housing estate, with colourful potted flowers around the perimeter separating audience from the acting area, three brightly coloured doors indicating the entrances to the various apartments and Jamie’s bedroom situated at the far end of the acting area, it immediately sets the tone for the play.
As Jamie’s mother, Sandra, Amy Kowalczuk dominates the action, creating a fascinating portrait of an openly confident career woman who is hiding her own deep insecurities behind a brittle exterior as she battles to build a life for herself and her son.
Aided by Emma Batchelor’s carefully chosen tacky-chic wardrobe which signals that Sandra is unlikely to ever rise above her present job as a bar manager, Kowalczuk’s depiction of a strong woman unravelling, as her outward confidence begins to desert her under the threat of circumstances she can’t control, is mesmerising in its detail and execution, climaxing in a brilliantly staged physical attack on the person she loves most.
|Amy Kowalczuk (Sandra) - Colin Giles (Tony)|
Colin Giles also impresses with his carefully modulated performance as Sandra’s charming but ineffectual boyfriend, Tony, who Sandra begins to suspect may also have designs on Jamie. Liv Boddington is outstanding as the annoying neighbour, Leah, creating an appealing characterisation as the misfit with a heart of gold.
But it is Nick Dyball, as the rebellious teenager, Jamie, and Liam Prichard as the object of his affection, Ste , who carry the weight of the play, and under the tactful, elegant direction of Jarrad West, both give such delicate, committed depictions of their growing relationship, that the charming denouement that ends the play feels inevitable and deeply moving.
Images by Janelle McMenamin/ Michael Moore