SINCE Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing last passed this way in June, 2003, Shameless has shaken a tail feather at northern grime.

Pilot Theatre director Marcus Romer has duly seen fit to ask Harvey if he would object to his urban fairytale being relocated from South East London to Shameless territory: a Manchester council estate.

The decision makes sense on two grounds: firstly, Harvey is himself a Liverpudlian, steeped in the northern rhythm of language; secondly, Pilot and its partners in this co-production, the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, are both northern companies.

Beautiful Thing is in effect coming home, its sunny disposition all the brighter but not red rose-tinted. "Sunshine in Manchester. It has just stopped raining...," read the film-style credits that pass across the stage floor in Star Wars mode.

Introduced by 15-year-old Jamie (Oliver Lee) in a voiceover redolent of each episode's opening to Shameless, Harvey's rites-of-passage drama occupies the sunny side of the street where he lives next door to fellow teenagers Ste (Jonathan Howard) and Leah (Kerry Stacey).

The weather has improved - a heatwave has booked in for the summer - and they crave improvement in their lives too. Ste pursues sporting goals, stymied by his father's drunken beatings. Jamie lacks confidence, escaping into Cagney And Lacey fantasy role-playing and Hello chit-chat as he struggles for attention from his mum, skin-tight Sandra (Marie Critchley). She is busy pulling pints and unsuitable young fellas in equal measure, her latest waster being the mellow-as-Bez, beatific Tony (Andonis James Anthony).

Ste lacks a mother figure, Jamie a father figure, and poetically the bolshy, brassy Leah has only the Californian hippie music of the Mamas and Papas, especially her heroine Mama Cass, for soul food.

She and Sandra spar and jab; artist Tony hangs around like the smoke from his spliff; and crushed Ste and Jamie take the tentative first steps of a summer romance. All are seeking to find their place in the world in a tender yet combustible tale that adds camp humour and colourful language to the black-and-white kitchen sink dramas of yore.

Superb performances all round are topped by Lee's remarkable professional debut: Coronation Street will surely come knocking.

Updated: 14:23 Wednesday, April 27, 2005