Groundbreaking gay play returns to London for outdoor anniversary performance

A new dance-theatre production of the groundbreaking LGBT play Beautiful Thing is set to open next month.

As part of the 2018 Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF), the festival will feature a dance-theatre reimagining of the 1993 Jonathan Harvey play Beautiful Thing.

Beautiful Thing is a tale of Jamie and Ste, two gay teenagers who struggle to come to terms with their identities and the feelings they have for one another.

James Rosental and Tom Wohlfahrt in rehearsals (Greenwich + Docklands International Festival)

The play, written by Jonathan Harvey, is perhaps best known for the 1996 Channel 4 film adaptation filmed in the filmed on location in Thamesmead where Beautiful Thing was originally set.

It is 50 years this summer since the first families moved into Thamesmead and these performances of Beautiful Thing are part of Thamesmead’s 50th Anniversary programme.

The GDIF production is set to break boundaries with its innovative dance-focused outdoor performance that also features digital projections, new music and a community cast alongside the professional performers.

The performances take place in Thamesmead on the 25th anniversary of the original play.

Festival founder and Beautiful Thing co-director Bradley Hemmings told PinkNews that he hoped the bold production would continue to move people.

He said: “For many people Beautiful Thing is something of a sacred text, and so I hope our very different outdoor version will captivate and draw a tear in the same way as the play always has over the last 25 years.”

Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey, Artistic Directors of the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony (Dave Tully/LOCOG via Getty Images)

GDIF is one of London’s main festivals of outdoor theatre and performing arts, and frequently attracts high profile theatrical talent, including Angels in America choreographer Robby Graham, will co-direct the performance.

“It’s always important that plays and productions whether in theatres or public open spaces, reflect the diversity of contemporary Britain,” Hemmings said. “All of us need to see our stories, reflected, honoured and shared.”

Even though the play is now 25 years old and the LGBT community has made lots of progress since, Hemmings is passionate about the relevance it has in 2018.

James Rosental and Tom Wohlfahrt star as Jamie and Ste (Greenwich + Docklands International Festival)

He said: “Although 1993 in many ways feels a world away, Beautiful Thing continues to resonate.

“It tells us about the importance of the right to be able to love freely and openly – our outdoor dance theatre production celebrates the right to be ourselves, kiss or slow dance (as Jamie and Ste do at the end of the play) in a public open space.”

During Beautiful Thing, the characters are frequently bullied by classmates and are forced to hide their sexualities from one another until a relationship is finally able to blossom in a heartwrenching way.

Preparations for Beautiful Thing involve recording digital projections (Greenwich + Docklands International Festival)

Hemmings said that the play would still resonate with many young people who still face bulling and discrimination for being LGBT.

Many statistics support Hemmings, including a recent report published by Pride in London that found that over a third of LGBT+ people in London have been verbally abused for being LGBT, and over 75 percent of LGBT people feel uncomfortable showing affection to a partner in public.

“I think young people, sadly still very much connect to the dilemma of Jonathan [Harvey]’s characters,” he said.

Beautiful Thing will be performed at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival between July 3 – 7.

Free tickets and £10 premium seats are available here