Jonathan Harvey

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Plays by Jonathan Harvey

Babies

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Babies is a warm-hearted, buoyant and very funny comedy about homosexuality and judgement in a working-class setting.

Liverpudlian Joe Casey is twenty-four and a form tutor at a south-east London comprehensive. Alternately advising and battening down a group of fourteen-year-olds with a mixture of naivety and Scouse nous, Joe keeps his homosexuality a secret from the insult-slinging Year Nines. At home, he is flummoxed by his partner Woody’s reliance on drugs. Then there is a pupil’s birthday party to negotiate: Joe must fend off the advances of her rapacious, wisecracking mum, only to find himself entangled with her uncle.

Based on Harvey’s own experiences as a teacher, but with a comic spring in its step, Babies premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1994.

Beautiful Thing

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Upliftingly optimistic, Harvey’s play about two teenage boys falling in love refuses melodramatic clichés to offer a story bright with sensitivity, pathos and wit.

Sixteen-year-old Jaime lives with his mum Sandra and her younger boyfriend in a low-rise block of flats in Thamesmead, London. Living next door is the rowdy Leah, who has been expelled from school and spends her days sunning herself and listening to Mama Cass. And on the other side is Ste, also sixteen. His father’s anger means that he often hides out in Jaime and Sandra’s flat, spending the night there to escape being beaten. Ste and Jaime start off top-and-tailing in Jaime’s bed, since there’s nowhere else to sleep, and Harvey unfolds their tentative, awkward relationship with delicacy and with joy.

Beautiful Thing’s crisply authentic dialogue darts between aching, soul-searching emotion and sharp winning comedy, perfectly capturing the thrill of a first love. Beautiful Thing was first performed in 1993 at the Bush Theatre, London.

Boom Bang-A-Bang

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It’s 1995, it’s the Eurovision Song Contest and Lulu’s ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang’ is the soundtrack to this exuberant conjuration of a Eurovision party that starts as camp and ends as farce, though there is a real power to Harvey’s discussion of sexuality.

Norman the lonely neighbour upstairs is trying every trick in the book to get himself invited to the party, but it is strictly for close friends only. In fact, it’s really just for people who knew Michael, Lee’s deceased boyfriend, as the couple used to host the best Eurovision parties and Lee wants to honour his memory. But most of his friends have opted for a rival party, and so Lee is left with his sister Wendy, the camp and irrepressible Steph, the gorgeous raver Roy, and the sparring couple Nick and Tanya. And the evening he had planned, full of kitsch, Bucks Fizz and douze points, goes astray amid the covert love affairs, accidental fires, memories and tears.

Boom Bang-A-Bang was first performed in 1995 at the Bush Theatre, London.

Canary

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In 1960s Liverpool Tom and Billy hide their love in the closet, then go their separate ways. As pits close and the dole queues grow, Mickey and Russell escape to find Heaven in 1980s London. But today the paparazzi turn judge and jury over a love story that could tear this family apart. Then a grieving mother gets lost up a mountain, with a vicar for some dubious consolation.

A deeply moving, funny, uplifting and often magical story about love, honesty and being brave enough to sing out at the top of your voice. With style.

Canary premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse on 23 April 2010 in a production by Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, English Touring Theatre and Hampstead Theatre.

Guiding Star

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Guiding Star is a funny and powerfully authentic portrait of a Liverpudlian family. At its centre is Terry and his unapproachable silence; he and his sons, Laurence and Liam, were at the Hillsborough disaster, in which nearly a hundred people were killed in a crush during an FA Cup semi-final.

All three survived, but nine years later he is still struggling to cope with what he saw. His wife Carol can’t bear how remote he has become, and their marriage is suffering. Next door, Marni and her husband Charlie have a son in hospital with cystic fibrosis. For some, life goes on: the quiet tragedy is lifted by the comic sparring between Laurence and his Ricki Lake-loving girlfriend. Terry’s younger son Liam is also looking for a relationship, though his dad might not be pleased about where he’s looking. Harvey’s vigorous dialogue creates a family that is sharp and loving and angry, and impeccably observed.

Guiding Star was first performed at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, in 1998.

Hushabye Mountain

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Danny is a young man, waiting to be let into heaven. There seems to be some difficulty about it, but Judy Garland reassures him as she passes by in a boat full of stars. Away from the dreamlike and unexpected version of the afterlife, the people who were closest to Danny struggle with his death from AIDS. His partner Connor is flattened by grief, and groping awkwardly towards a new relationship. Connor’s brother Lee and his wife Lana, who was Danny’s best friend, find their new marriage overshadowed by the hole Danny's absence has left in their lives. And Danny’s mother Beryl, who had kept in contact via increasingly paranoid letters after Danny’s father disowned him, is now in a mental hospital and being updated by Judy Garland about her son’s progress towards heaven.

First performed in 1999 at the Lyceum Theatre, Crewe, Hushabye Mountain reveals a world that has learned to live with AIDS. It is a world full of love, pain, laughter and friendship, where drugs in their various combinations are exhilarating, destructive, costly and even life restoring.

Out in the Open

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Out in the Open is a funny and honest exploration of love and the limits of friendship set over a long, hazily hot summer weekend in London.

It is six months after the death of Frankie, Tony’s partner, and Tony has brought home a younger man called Iggy from the pub. Tony is far from over Frankie’s death, but Iggy is really quite handsome and Tony wonders if it might be time to start moving on. But Frankie’s memory is being kept determinedly alive by his exuberantly eccentric mother Mary, who is always popping round with watermelons or flans for Tony. And there’s a secret that Tony’s best friends, the unemployed actress Monica and his lodger Kevin, should have told him a long time ago.

Out in the Open is a warm and emotional comedy looking at the different ways people deal with loss and betrayal. It premiered in 2001 at the Hampstead Theatre, London.

Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Jonathan Harvey’s heart-wrenching and hilarious play is about five people who are irrational, lonely, loving, a little bit crazy, and very real.

In the middle flat at 15 Rupert Street lives Shaun, a hairdresser whose girlfriend has gone to Barbados for a funeral. Staying with him while she’s away is his gay elder brother Marti, who practically brought him up. As Shaun says, he was weaned on queenery, and the brothers can perform the greatest scenes of gay cinema by heart.

Living downstairs is George, a secondary-school English teacher who can’t stop mentioning her ex-boyfriend. Living upstairs is the eccentric Clarine, or is it Zoe Wanamaker? Clarine’s identity is a little wobbly. And Shaun’s brought Dean over, a transvestite also known as Fifi Trixabelle La Bouche.

The group is rather a mis-matched one in the first place, and things only get worse when Shaun begins to go to pieces in his girlfriend’s absence, creating a moving and tender psychological drama, flecked with Harvey’s inescapable wit.

Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club was first produced in 1995 at the Contact Theatre, Manchester.

Picture of Jonathan Harvey

Jonathan Harvey is an award-winning playwright, whose plays include The Cherry Blossom Tree (Liverpool Playhouse Studio), which won him the 1987 National Girobank Young Writer of the Year Award; Wildfire (Royal Court Theatre); Beautiful Thing (Bush Theatre, London and Donmar Warehouse/Duke of York's Theatre), winner of the John Whiting Award 1994; Babies (Royal National Theatre Studio/Royal Court Theatre), winner George Devine Award 1993 and Evening Standard's Most Promising Playwright Award 1994; Boom Bang-A-Bang (Bush Theatre); Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club (English Touring Theatre/Contact Theatre Company, Donmar Warehouse/Criterion Theatre); Swan Song (Pleasance/Hampstead Theatre); Guiding Star (Liverpool Everyman/National Theatre); Hushabye Mountain (English Touring Theatre/Hampstead) and Out in the Open (Hampstead Theatre/Birmingham Rep).

Television and film work includes: West End Girls (Carlton); Love Junkie (BBC); Beautiful Thing (Channel Four/Island World Productions); Gimme Gimme Gimme (BBC).