I don’t know if you’ve spotted this trend but there seems to be an endless slew of eighties movie adaptations in theatres of late. Why should this be? Perhaps cynical producers have calculated those who grew up loving these movies are now of a certain age with a certain amount of disposal income to revisit their childhood or teen years and revel in these rebooted stage versions. Or, perhaps, producers are exhuming films of such inherent artistic value they are screaming out to be staged.
“My Beautiful Laundrette” was a seminal British eighties movie. A first for the newly founded Channel Four, an early movie for Stephen Frears, a ground breaking portrayal of a gay relationship and a break out role for Daniel Day-Lewis. So why reinvent, remake, and reimagine this iconic feature? I’m not entirely sure…
Where once the style was gritty, urban and realistic it is now broad, comic, self-parodying with the faint whiff of a musical with the songs removed. Scenes still have traces of their filmic origins - short scenes, fast scenes - too little plot in the first half, too much in the second. Where once a cut would take us in nano-seconds to the next scene keeping the momentum and impetus flowing, we now wait while the actors carry on their furniture, arrange it and wait for the lights to come on. All this disrupts the flow.
Jonny Fines and Omar Malik play the lovers, Johnny and Omar (how often do you see a play where both lead actors have the same name as they characters?) drawn together across a massive gulf of cultural difference. One a hard right, racist, the other a son of hard working immigrants, but, as in all good love stories, against all these seemingly insurmountable odds they fall into each other’s arms. And open a laundrette.
Cathy Tyson, an iconic actress from the period, ably plays Rachel and a nice touch is added by including Gordon Warnecke playing the father of Omar the role he originated in 1985. Music is supplied by the Pet Shop Boys and there’s not enough of it and, though, the play fails to recapture the heady, liberating atmosphere of its source “My Beautiful Laundrette” is a good solid entertaining out.
Reviewer: Ian Billings
Reviewed: 5th November 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★