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My Beautiful Laundrette | The Lowry

Originally a popular movie in the 1980’s, Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette has been adapted for the stage and is currently embarking on a tour around the UK. Originally presented at Leicester’s Curve Theatre, directed by Nikolai Foster, this production has been directed by Nicole Behan. The story was groundbreaking at the time of its release and was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, however would the story stand the test of time or would it be washed up?

The piece is set during the tenure of Margaret Thatcher in South London. Telling the story of Omar (Luca Chadwick-Patel) and his confrontation with a racist gang in the area, he and his former school friend Jonny (Sam Mitchell) work together to set up a laundrette ‘Powders’ and in doing so explore their feelings for one another.

My Beautiful Laundrette has an abundance of themes running through it which are still relevant all these years later. With hate crimes on the rise in society, it’s welcome to see a story on stage attempting to highlight injustices within racism and same sex relationships. However, many themes are simply not explored in any real depth or are glossed over. The use of humour is apparent throughout, but often interjects just as we feel we are going to connect emotionally with the characters. Due to this we struggle to fully understand the back stories of each character, which doesn’t allow the audience to get behind them and want their relationship to progress.

The complex relationship between the Pakistani and English communities plays out with our leads at the forefront. By using the multi-levelled staging to sometimes differentiate between the social groups, this interpretation mirrored the hierarchy of society. Whilst the script pokes fun at both sets of communities, it again fails to delve into the deeper internalised racism issues. Chemistry between Chadwick-Patel and Mitchell on the whole is conspicuous but for a story about queer love, there seems to be something missing. A chance encounter and a whirlwind few scenes later and they are seemingly in love. As the piece reaches its climax the audience should be on tenterhooks as a fight reaches its conclusion.

In what could have been a lovely tender moment between our protagonists, Omar asks ‘alright?’ To which Jonny replies ‘Do I look alright?’ This light hearted comedic gesture completely stripped the emotional connection between the pair and lacked believability. It was a missed opportunity to add depth and development into the characters relationship. A particular highlight within the casting of the piece is that of Omar’s dad, played by Gordon Warnecke who originated role of Omar in the film. It was a lovely touch to see him play Omar’s alcoholic father in this production. 

Ben Cracknell’s lighting design impresses throughout. Each scene is visually unique with clear cues which allows the audience to differentiate between scenes. From the stunning multi-coloured London club nights, to the intimate moments between our two leads, each scene's lighting has been meticulously thought through. Strategically placed bursts of neon lights contrast against the grey concrete staging symbolic of the hope of better days ahead. Add to this original music composed by The Pet Shop Boys, distinctively 80’s with its synth pop beats accompanying the seamless transitions and it was as if we were right back in Soho all those years ago. Stage designer Grace Smart has produced a versatile stage that works well, adding a variety of interactions within the story as the cast moved effortlessly around the stage, reflecting the broken state the country was in at the time.

My Beautiful Laundrette left me wanting something more. Topics that should be considered as serious and extreme as they were in the 1980’s, felt unimportant and not true to the time. Instead of it being a heavy load to bear, it’s more of a lukewarm wash. My Beautiful Laundrette runs at the Lowry until 23rd March. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ellie Kurtz


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