Set in London during the Thatcher years, My Beautiful Laundrette tells the story of young British Pakistani, Omar, who transforms his uncle's run-down laundrette into a thriving business with the help of old school friend Johnny as an unlikely love story blossoms between them.
There’s plenty to like about this production. From the opening moments it screams 1980s Britain with all its social and cultural conflict and the iconic sound of the Pet Shop Boys is the ideal backdrop for a story which in its day powerfully defied Thatcherism and all it stood for.
Jonny Fines is excellent as reformed bad boy Johnny and Omar Malik turns in a thoughtful performance as Omar.
There’s good support too from the likes of Hareet Deol as the spivvy Salim and Gordon Warnecke, who played Omar in the original some 35 years ago but this time portrays the character’s father.
But something isn’t quite right and in this stage adapation the story feels a little lacking in substance; even trite at times.
In the screenplay Johnny and Omar’s relationship is frustratingly unexplored but it somehow works in the context of the age. In this production their bond is so quickly formed that it lacks credibility, no matter how hard the actors try.
Elsewhere the dialogue frequently borders on the corny. What should be a touching moment, when Johnny tells Omar he is ‘his prince’, instead feels a little cringeworthy.
The set is cleverly simplistic but at times it leaves the audience confused about where we are. And even Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s 80s anthems feel like set change music which isn't properly integrated into the piece.
The Oscar-nominated original was leagues ahead of its time in the 80s and challenged the cultural absolutes and negative stereotypes which were so typical of the dogmatism of the day in a hugely important way.
This production threatens to, but never quite succeeds at making that story resonate with modern day audiences.
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