Beautiful Thing debut brings tale of British gay teens to Shanghai

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

One of the most acclaimed plays about teenage gay experience is to open in the Chinese city of Shanghai later this month.

Beautiful Thing, a 1993 play by Johnathan Harvey about two working class London teenage boys coming to terms with their sexual attraction to eachother, was a stage and screen hit in the UK and across the world.

Website Shanghaiist describes it as an “unlikely coming-of-age story” and refers to it as the city’s first gay play.

“Sensitive Jamie (Joakim Eriksson) would rather watch rainbows and musicals than be at school and is infatuated with his athletic classmate and neighbour Ste (Derek Kwan) who has to deal with a drug-dealing brother and abusive, alcoholic father at home,” said Shanghaiist.

“Their sassy neighbour Leah (Sophie Lloyd — formerly fashion editor of SH Mag) has been kicked out of every school in the area, has a drug problem and can’t stop listening to her mom’s Cass Elliott records.

“Meanwhile, Jamie’s feisty mother Sandra (Christy Shapiro) juggles her job as a barmaid and her ever-changing string of lovers, the latest of whom is Tony (JP Lopez) who is younger than her and a neo-hippie.”

The play will run for two nights and all proceeds will be donated to an HIV charity that works with men who have sex with men (MSM).

There has been a sharp rise in the number of reported HIV infections among MSM in China’s major cities.

This year China’s Ministry of Health implemented its first ever national programme to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men.

The programme marks a subtle new phase in the one-party-state’s attitudes towards homosexuality since sodomy was decriminalised in 1997: No approval, no disapproval and no promotion.

Gay sex accounted for just 0.4 percent of new infections in 2005, but that figure had risen to 3.3 percent by 2007.

The latest figures, released in November, estimated that 4.9% of gay men are HIV+.

Of the estimated 700,000 Chinese people living with HIV or AIDS, 11% contracted the virus through gay sex, according to Ministry of Health figures.

There are no laws against gay sex or lifestyles.

Neither are there any laws protecting Chinese gays from discrimination. Homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in China until 2001.