Jamie and Ste (short for Steve) are teenage neighbors in a working-class housing project in London. Jamie is bookish and shy while Ste is more athletic. Neither one has an ideal home life: Jamie's mother Sandra is bitter over her financial situation and her romantic life, but she's willing to settle for a bloke named Tony and cover up her disappointment with scathing humor; Ste's father and brother abuse him in the form of escalating domestic squabbles and actual beatings. After one such fight, Ste asks Sandra if he can stay at her house and she lets him and Jamie bunk together. As their friendship grows, Jamie begins to realize he has stronger feelings for Ste, and one night, after Ste suffers a particularly bad beating, the two boys decide to experiment together. Both realizing they're gay, Ste and Jamie begin a tentative relationship. Soon, Sandra hears the rumor that her son's gay, and knowing that he's been having trouble in school, she confronts him and he admits the truth. Ste and Jamie's friend, Leah, is also in on the secret and she's supportive of them, probably because of her own outsider status as a Mama Cass worshipper. The play ends with the two boys feeling less alone in the world than before; they have each other, and even the bickering Sandra and Leah call a truce and accompany the boys in a slow dance for all their neighbors to see.
"Only a theatergoer with an ice cube where his heart should be would remain indifferent to the plight of Jamie and Ste, the teen-age heroes of BEAUTIFUL THING, Jonathan Harvey's endearing, lopsided smile of a comedy about a boy who falls for the boy next door…warm and rewarding" —NY Times. "…a sharp, tart English comedy of manners…" —NY Post. "Deliciously upbeat…seldom has there been a play which so exquisitely and joyously depicts what it's like to be sixteen, in the first flush of love and full of optimism. Truly a most unusual and beautiful thing." —Guardian (London). "This is the most heartening working-class comedy since A Taste of Honey." —Sunday Independent (London).