This year’s Ian Charleson Award winner Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran is joining the cast of Theatre Royal Stratford East’s 30th anniversary production of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing.
Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran will play Jamie, alongside Raphael Akuwudike as Ste.
Joshua Asaré, who was originally announced to play Jamie, has had to drop out of the production due to personal circumstances.
Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran goes on next week. For the first few previews, including last night’s first preview, Jamie is being played by Kojo Quainoo, who is making his professional stage debut. Understudy Quainoo has only had a week to learn the part.
The full cast is Raphael Akuwudike (Romeo and Juliet – Almeida, Sons of the Prophet – Hampstead Theatre) as Ste, Rilwan Abiola Owokoniran (The Importance of Being Earnest – English Touring Theatre) as Jamie, Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge (Pinocchio – National Theatre) as Tony, Shvorne Marks (Meek – Headlong, The Witch of Edmonton – RSC) as Sandra, and Scarlett Rayner (Sexy Beast – Paramount+) as Leah.
Jonathan Harvey’s ground-breaking 90’s play has achieved cult status over the last 30 years, and is a moving, witty and queer love story set on a London council estate.
Directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike, the creative teams include Set & Costume Designer Rosie Elnile, Lighting Designer Elliot Griggs, Sound Designer Xana, Movement & Intimacy Director Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster, Casting Director Isabella Odoffin CDG, Associate Director Robert Awosusi, Fight Director Bret Yount, Costume Supervisor Jackie Orton, Voice & Dialect Coach Joel Trill, Production Dramatherapist Wabriya King and Casting Assistant Joanna Sturrock.
Director Anthony Simpson-Pike said in a statement when the production was first announced that: “Beautiful Thing is an iconic queer story that holds a special place in so many people’s hearts. Many people saw their own stories on stage and screen for the first time. In its 30th anniversary year, I feel excited for people who look like me to see their own stories reflected on stage too, to feel that same stirring of recognition in this seminal piece. Black queer people have always been around, this beautiful story of discovering your true self and falling in love belongs to all of us.”
Beautiful Thing is playing at Theatre Royal Stratford East to 7 October, and then plays the Leeds Playhouse from 18 to 28 October, and HOME Manchester from 31 October to 11 November.