Review: Beautiful Thing, Sound Theatre

Jonathan Harvey’s urban gay fairytale remains his best and funniest theatrical work to date and is further enhanced by this confident production.

As the 15-year-old neighbours whose friendship turns into full-blown love, the doe-eyed intelligence of Jonathan Bailey’s Jamie works perfectly alongside Gavin Brocker’s sport-obsessed Ste. Both actors provide a depth to the relationship far deeper than the dialogue would otherwise suggest.

They are eclipsed though by the female leads. Michelle Terry plays the Mama Cass-obsessed neighbour Leah as unlikable as she can, ensuring that the second act switch of character, where she becomes the ultimate in loyal friends, works flawlessly. Sparks fly between her and Jamie’s mother Sandra, the ultimate heart of the piece, whom Carli Norris plays with pitch-perfect ferocity and tenderness throughout.

In support, Steven Meo does well to lift hippy artist Tony out of the caricature he is painted on the page, forming a well-rounded and sympathetic outsider whose chilled out approach to problem solving saves the day when all about him are reduced to verbal and physical battery.

This production is likely to be the Sound Theatre’s last, before the bulldozers move in this autumn to replace it with a soulless hotel complex. In addition to the starlit finale on stage, Beautiful Thing creates the ultimate in happy endings for its venue as well.

This review first appeared in the August 3, 2006 issue of **The Stage**

July 19-September 9
Author: Jonathan Harvey
Director: Tony Frow
Producer: NML Productions
Cast: Jonathan Bailey, Gavin Brocker, Steven Meo, Carli Norris, Michelle Terry
Running time: 1hr 40mins

Le Fate Ignoranti

* Originally published on [Gay.com UK](http://uk.gay.com/)

Antonia and Massimo have been married for fifteen years, but are still very much in love. With no children and only a small circle of friends, their relationship is so intense that, when Massimo gets knocked down in a car accident, Antonia’s life falls completely to pieces. Neglecting her family and friends, her pain increases when she discovers a love letter to her husband written on the back of a painting called ‘The Ignorant Fairies’.

In her obsession to find out the identity of this mystery woman, Antonia is shocked to discover that her husband’s lover was, in fact, a man. Not only that, but Massimo and his boyfriend Michele had been together for seven years, creating a large network of close friends — an extended family that Antonia, despite herself, begins to find herself drawn into.

Thus, the scene for director Ferzan Ozpetek’s latest film is set. Le Fate Ignoranti is a powerful discourse on the nature of friendship and family, and what place love has when the boundaries between the two become less distinct. Antonia (played by award-winning actress Margherita Buy) travels a complex emotional journey, starting off completely resenting Michele (Stefano Accorsi) but gradually realising that she has more in common with him than she ever did with her husband. Still, she finds it impossible to stop grieving, and her palpable pain at seeing Michele laughing and joking — and finding possible new lovers — is gut-wrenching.

In less confident hands, Michele’s extended family could come across as a collection of hackneyed stereotypes: a prostitute, a male-to-female transsexual, a good-looking man who is struggling with his anti-HIV medication — the staple of many a poor gay melodrama. However, with Ozpetek (director of Hamam: The Turkish Bath) at the helm, and a cast of supporting actors that never hit a wrong note, the course of Antonia and Michele’s growing attraction towards each other remains completely believable, wholly involving and heart-achingly resonant right until the closing credits.

There are precious few films that, after one viewing, will encourage you to drag your friends along to see it again with you. Le Fate Ignoranti is one such film: a sweet, uplifting tale that stays with you long after you’ve left the cinema.

A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon

Originally published on Gay.com UK

A group of university archaeologists are camped out in a Californian forest. One of the team, of Native American descent, is convinced the place is haunted – and the weird nighttime sounds that are spooking them all out are slowly convincing the rest of them.

It sounds more like the setup for an episode of Scooby Doo than a murder mystery, but the latest novel from Gay Men’s Press enters areas that Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Mystery Machine crew’ would never dare approach.

In A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon, bookseller-turned-crime writer Adrien English escapes out to the Pine Shadow Ranch, bequeathed to him by his beloved grandmother, in the hope of overcoming his writer’s block and to sort out in his head his frustrating relationship with the S/M-obsessed LAPD detective that he met in Lanyon’s first book, Fatal Shadows.

Continue reading “A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon”

The Ropemaker’s Daughter, by Virginia Smith

Originally written for Gay.com UK

We’ve all told little white lies on a first date. First impressions matter, we’re always being told, so it pays to come across as interesting as possible. A little hint of thrill in one’s job here, a dark secret in a slightly-murky-but-not-threateningly-so past there. After all, if the relationship doesn’t go anywhere it’s not going to matter, and if it does, well, your new partner will look over such indiscretions. Right?

Wrong — at least, for the heroine of The Ropemaker’s Daughter, an amazing first novel by Virginia Smith. Rebecca is a habitual liar, concocting elaborate past histories with which to enthral men, safe in the knowledge that they’re not going to get to know her and so will never find out the truth — that she’s little more than a Southampton librarian. This is all well and fine, until she meets someone who’s an even better liar than she is. He claims he’s Adam, Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend who she dumped a year earlier, but she knows differently for two reasons. Firstly, he looks nothing like her ex — but more significantly, the real Adam had thrown himself off a cliff ten months earlier.

Rebecca enlists the help of Paige, a woman who also knows the fake ‘Adam’, to find out just who he is and why he’s tormenting her by posing as her late ex. As they do so, Rebecca finds out more about herself – including an increasing attraction to Paige.

Lovers of Barbara Vine will adore Smith’s plotting. The story propels itself along, with no twist ever feeling forced or unnatural. While the same can’t necessarily be said of some of the characters. Paige’s backstory, for example, is peppered with unusual and unbelievable cardboard cutouts. These, however, don’t detract from the sense of dramatic urgency.

The ending possibly suffers from being a little easy to guess, but with all great mystery novels it’s how you get there that matters, and ‘The Ropemaker’s Daughter’ takes you on a fantastic ride.

The Sacrifice, by Gordon Linton

Originally written for [Gay.com UK](http://uk.gay.com)

Anybody who’s grown up gay in a small village will know how important it can suddenly become when you meet someone like you; someone who shares your secret. Greg Chaley, the hero of new novel The Sacrifice, finds out when he meets Kit, in his school choir.

Two years older than he is, the androgynous older boy is immediately aware that Greg is different; not because he’s gay, but because, like himself, he has supernatural abilities. At first, Greg is sceptical. It is only after wishing a dreadful fate on his homophobic music teacher, who subsequently suffers a horrific car crash, that he begins to believe that Kit may have a point and that he really is not like other men.

Gordon Linton’s debut as a novelist follows the path of Greg’s dalliance with black arts through school and on into university. Whenever dark magic is used in fiction, there’s often a strong link with sex (Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s lesbian couple of Tara and Willow, concocting powerful spells together in their bedroom, being just one recent example). It’s the same case here: as Greg’s powers begin to grow, he meets and falls in love with the handsome Phillipe, only to find that their passionate lovemaking is channelling his powers into performing acts of criminal – and fatal – evil.

If the whole premise sounds hokey, it’s redeemed by the absolute seriousness with which it’s taken within the framework of the novel itself. When the plot dips into pure melodrama, the fact that the reader’s own scepticism is echoed by Greg’s own thoughts helps to propel the story onwards.

As the story is moves on to its inevitable climax, Linton for the most part manages to keep on the right side of the line that divides the fantastic from the faintly ridiculous. One of the least believable elements, though, is the manner in which the villain of the piece is despatched. While the method is just about plausible within the framework of the book, the fact that it needs to be explained a few pages later on is maybe a sign that its execution is weaker than it should be.

All in all, The Sacrifice is a satisfying, if at times undemanding, read.