Thomas W. Hodgkinson

My Beautiful Laundrette

By Hanif Kureishi
Curve, Leicester

A strange nostalgia hangs over this new stage adaptation of the 1985 movie My Beautiful Laundrette. Pet Shop Boys have contributed a soundtrack. Cathy Tyson, who appears as one character’s brassy mistress, is best remembered for her turn in the 1986 noir Mona Lisa. And Gordon Warnecke, who plays the hero’s alcoholic father, was the protagonist, Omar, in the film: the Pakistani boy in thrall to Thatcher’s capitalist dream, who takes on a floundering Battersea laundrette belonging to his entrepreneur uncle and makes a go of it. Yet even those who see the 1980s as good old days may miss the screenplay’s stripped-down precision. Hanif Kureishi has expanded his casual, character-driven dialogue, making it seem more meandering and explicit. The central conceit, though, still works: vivid characters, including Omar’s tender ex-fascist lover, Johnny (a charismatic Jonny Fines), circle a blank-slate hero (Omar Malik), while what starts as political parable is gradually revealed to be more interested in the gay love story at its heart.