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A Beautiful Thing to behold: NUTS review

Written by Arts

Each time I see a NUTS performance, I’m blown away by their professionalism and polish, but somehow Beautiful Thing exceeded my expectations. Written by Jonathan Harvey, the play presents two working-class teenage boys navigating the turbulence of being gay in the 90s.

In a world saturated by Hollywood images of romance, it was refreshing to see a couple fumbling through their first relationship in a painfully relatable way; the delicate naivety and insecurity portrayed by Leo MacNeill and Max Brennan captured the true kerfuffle of young love.

The rapid, witty and often inappropriate humour consistently lifted the mood

There were many moments of gravity, detailing physical abuse and financial struggles, that flowed through the undercurrents of the play – these poignancies encourage us to consider our often privileged position of being at university, as well as reminding us how far LGBTQIA+ rights have come. But these were perfectly balanced with comedy. The rapid, witty and often inappropriate humour consistently lifted the mood, and it demonstrated how talented the cast were that they could switch between emotions within seconds.

The actors had physically demanding roles – bursting into Cass Elliot songs one moment and being strangled with a hosepipe the next – and yet they made every challenge look effortless. They all maintained convincing London accents throughout the turbulent scenes and this really helped them transform into their characters. Despite the fact that all the actors were students, their mannerisms and costumes enabled them to differentiate their ages, to the point where I forgot I wasn’t watching secondary schoolers and their parents.

The simple setup enabled the dynamic lighting and 90s soundtrack to shine, truly transporting us to the 1990s

The understated set presented an authentic teenage bedroom on one side, and a courtyard with two plastic chairs on the other, however both areas felt so separate, the directors did an excellent job of creating different spaces within such a small stage. The simple setup enabled the dynamic lighting and 90s soundtrack to shine, truly transporting us to the 1990s.

The wholesome ending of the play brought tears to many eyes in the audience, but it struck a perfect balance between being cheerful and remaining realistic – as homosexual couples continue to face discrimination every day, it felt appropriate not to end too optimistically. However, every character had an arch, and therefore it was satisfying watching their growth over 90 minutes.

Another absolute triumph for NUTS

Overall directors Beth Rennie and Martha Johnson put on an engaging and poignant comedy, confirming the talent of student theatre and power of love. Another absolute triumph for NUTS.

Last modified: 13th June 2020

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