The curtains have opened on Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette at Curve. Originally an 80s cult classic film, Kureishi has worked with Curve to repurpose his masterpiece for the stage.
Set in the heart of the big smoke during Thatcher’s reign, two old school friends – Johnny and Omar – reconnect and find themselves on opposite sides of a political war building around them. At the heart of it all is a laundrette, which serves as a focal point for their budding friendship, which blossoms into a beautiful romance.
Jonny Fines is fantastic in the role of Johnny. He demonstrates the delicate balance between vulnerability and fierce determination with the threat of snapping at any given moment. In what could otherwise be an intense production, Johnny provides comic relief, and he really takes the part and runs with it.
Omar Malik stands beside him boldly in the role of Omar. The chemistry these two actors share is really believable, and I found myself rooting for their beautiful relationship. Omar is naïve about the promise of the world and finds himself trapped between a rock and a hard place; his feelings for Johnny and his duty to his family. Fines and Malik both shone brightly in these roles. In the tumultuous political chaos that rises up around them, there is something simplistically beautiful about their relationship and their vision for Powders Laundrette.
Hareet Deol brilliantly executed the seedy, greedy, untrustworthy Salim, and Kammy Darweish felt right at home in the role of Omar’s uncle, Nasser. It was a lovely touch to see Gordon Warnecke bringing the story full circle in the role of the Papa, having played the part of Omar over 30 years ago in the film.
I did find myself slightly disliking Nicole Jebeli’s portrayal of Tania, however, as it felt slightly contrived and overacted at times. I don’t doubt for one second that Jebeli is a fantastic actor, but I felt that this role maybe needed more of a subtle approach.
It would seem that the pacing of the production is a little inconsistent. The plot is a slow-burner in the first act, and it takes a while to fully introduce our principle characters. This contrasts the show’s end, however, which races at a million miles an hour and leaves a few unanswered questions.
Grace Smart’s set design was characteristically 80s, with neon popping lights and an industrial, grungy aesthetic. However, it felt somewhat over-complicated at times, however, and led to props being dropped during scene changes.
Director Nikolai Foster has pulled it out of the bag once again with this dynamic, gritty and thought-provoking retelling of a cult classic. It’s definitely one to watch before it heads off to Birmingham Hippodrome.
Reviewed by Rosie Bambury
Photo: Ellie Kurttz
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