Beautiful Thing, a Digital Theater play directed by Jonathan Harvey, tells the story of two middle-class teenagers who fall in love with each other. The viewer can observe and experience, together with the characters, the stages of the boys’ realizing their homosexuality, accepting it, and trying to figure out what to do. This is a story about a naively idealistic yet blossoming and beautiful, youthful love which happens despite circumstances.
The play’s central themes are gay love, coming-out and homophobic society, which worsens the lives of queer people by blocking access to a proper awareness of their orientation. This is especially emphasized in the scene when Ste and Jamie are browsing a gay magazine where they find an article about HIV, and the thing that surprises them is the word “frottage.” The way the characters reveal their orientation to Jamie’s mom, Sandra, shows all the shame and despair that teenagers experience.
However, the play also elaborates a more general problem, which is expressed, among other things, through secondary characters, neighbors living in adjacent flats. This is the challenge of being different, being yourself, and being called an outsider. The girl Leah loves the songs of Mamma Cass despite her young age but is forced to compensate for social acceptance by drugs. Jamie is teased at school, Steve is beaten by father, and Sandra is a single woman who dreams of something more. And they are all the only ones who can understand each other, albeit throwing out sharp jokes and making fun of each other.
There is nothing to fault the play in terms of production, casting, and atmosphere. Somehow, through lightning, and decorations an atmosphere of intimacy is being created, despite the somewhat open scene. Viewers are immersed in this small backyard in which the drama unfolds. However, although the story tells about torment, soul searching and includes very sentimental moments, there is no feeling of sadness in some magical way. This effect is in many ways due to dialogues filled with charming humor, sincerity, and naturalness. I must say that it was the dialogues that had the most absorbing influence on me.
Speaking of emotions, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the famous book was embodied on the stage of the Digital Theatre. Considering that I watched the movie adaptation of the play, which I really liked, I was convinced that I should not pin high hopes on the theatrical version. However, even given a digital format of the performance, surprisingly, I somehow got so engaged with the events on the screen that I did not notice how it felt to be sitting in the audience by the stage. It is difficult to judge what would have happened if I had watched the play live. However, it can be said unequivocally that the online experience exceeded my expectations in terms of both format and atmosphere.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that even though much has changed for the better since 1993 in the field of minority rights, the topic is still very relevant. Even now, many adolescents face the difficulty of recognizing their sexual orientation and declaring it openly. That is why the play staged by Harvey finds such a response from the audience and helps to find similar experiences. Personally, the play impressed me hugely and made me reflect on many issues.