Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Review – My Beautiful Launderette (UK Tour) – Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool

TO say that Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Launderette was groundbreaking when it first appeared on screen would be an understatement. Very much emblematic of the mission of Channel Four Films, it was a trailblazer for much of the bold and socially significant programming that the TV channel and its associated filmmaking arm has gone on to produce.

Adapting it for the stage some 35 years later might have seemed a bit of a gamble, but the fact that society seems to have taken massive strides backwards in recent years means that the themes it revolves around make it every bit as relevant today as it was in the 1980s – possibly even moreso. The perils of growing up as a gay Pakistani boy in a London where far right opinions and racial tension were rife are sadly not as much a thing of the past as they ought to be, and it remains a story that needs repeated retelling.

Created at Leicester’s Curve Theatre in 2019 this production, originally directed by Nikolai Foster, also benefits from the fact that, in adapting his own screenplay for the stage, Kureishi has retained the 1985 setting. This enables us to reflect more clearly on the way history seems to be repeating itself than if the play had been given a 21st century makeover.

Given the success that its first outing enjoyed, Curve have brought it back for a second tour, and it is great to see Nicole Behan, a Liverpool Hope graduate, directing this revival. Reprising the role of Papa is Gordon Warnecke, who of course is well remembered for playing his son Omar in the original film. It’s a larger than life performance with exaggerated delivery and gestures (betraying perhaps Warneke’s Shakespearian work) but one that brings with it an emotional connection to the story’s origin. Also returning from the original cast are Kammy Darwesh as Omar’s uncle Nasser, along with Hareet Deol and Paddy Daley who play Salim and Genghis, the chief antagonists of the narrative.

New in this cast are Lucca Chadwick-Patel and Sam Mitchell as the central pairing of Omar and Johnny. Both characters undergo a transformation during the course of the story bordering on a personality transplant. Omar leaves behind his shy, reticent outlook and finds strength and confidence, while Johnny’s Pugnacious exterior reveals a gentle heart, as the two set about rejuvenating Uncle Nasser’s launderette. The family’s pretty much arranged marriage for Omar is quickly abandoned as he boldly declares his love for Johnny and, amidst all the dysfunction that surrounds them, their growing relationship is shown to be about the most positive force in the entire scenario.  Both Chadwick-Patel and Mitchell develop their respective characters’ emotional journeys with warmth and humanity. It would be easy for their story to come across as an urban fairytale, but these performances ensure that we genuinely believe the transformative effect of the love they have found. These are characters that we genuinely care about.

The choice of Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe to provide the score which underpins the play is a clever stroke that both roots the setting in the ‘80s and highlights the enduring nature of its driving themes. Meanwhile Grace Smart’s designs and Ben Cracknell’s bold and colourful lighting add an almost dreamlike quality to the staging.

This is a smart, witty and moving production that brings a new lease of life to Kureishi’s now iconic love story, reinventing it for audiences familiar with the film and making a great introduction for those who have never seen it.

Star rating: 4 stars
Review by Nigel Smith

Popular Articles