A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Stag Theatre presents


My Beautiful Laundrette

 

James Wallwork and Yannick Fernandes in My Beautiful Laundrette at Above the Stag Theatre 2011- Photo by Derek Drescher

 

by Hanif Kureishi

 

Adapted by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham

 

Directed by Tim McArthur

 

Above the Stag Theatre


1 Mar - 17 April 2011

 

The issue of ‘Britishness’ is one that seems to remain at the forefront of cultural relevance as the decades come and go, and with the recent political and conceptual tug-of-war surrounding the meaning and essence of multiculturalism, Hanif Kureishi’s landmark 1985 screenplay My Beautiful Laundrette is an apt and relevant reminder of that ambiguous and often problematic state of ‘in-between-ness’, in which a great many people find themselves. Originally a critically acclaimed film directed by Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette manifests itself on the stage via an adaptation by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham. Tim McArthur directs the play at Above the Stag Theatre in a production which seems to straddle a troubling ‘in-between-ness’ of its own - somewhere between gritty drama and high-spirited sentimentality.

Against the backdrop of a recession hit, Thatcher era South London, Omar struggles with the burden of looking after his disillusioned alcoholic Pakistani father. So when his successful uncle Nasser offers him a business opportunity in the form of a grimy laundrette, Omar jumps at the prospect. Employing old school friend Johnny after a chance reunion, the two young men soon become lovers and try to make the laundrette a success in a world dominated by the social and political tensions of ethnicity, cultural affiliation and sexual orientation. Throw in some financial wheeling and dealing and Johnny’s former dalliance in right wing extremism and you’ve got yourself a pretty volatile and exciting mix.

The cast manoeuvre themselves capably through the numerous scene changes and narrative events, cleverly contained on Above the Stag’s tiny stage by Fiona Russell’s ‘pop-up book’ set design. James Wallwork, who appeared well settled into his character and came closest to capturing Kureishi’s particular brand of ambiguous irony in his performance is a pleasure to watch as Johnny, and came closest to capturing Kureishi’s particular brand of ambiguous irony in his performance. Indranyl Singharay as the villainous Salim and Royce Ullah as the vibrant entrepreneur Nasser, deliver very entertaining performances with great energy, which at times bring them a bit too close for comfort to the brink of caricature. Although Yannick Fernandes brings an effective youthful naivety to the role of Omar, he seemed a little too posh for a South London lad.

Roger Parsley and Andy Graham’s adaptation is well-rounded, although at times the numerous scene changes felt a little clumsy for theatre. In the original incarnation of My Beautiful Laundrette, the ironic essence of Kureishi’s writing and his refusal to idealise or sentimentalise issues surrounding ethnicity and multiculturalism, are compellingly played out with a delicate and uniquely subtle mixture of irony and ambiguity of character. This however, feels rather lacking in this production. Tim McArthur’s direction may be a little too high-spirited for the subtlety of the text. With doses of sentimentality rising to the surface every now and again, the ambiguous and ironic qualities essential to the characters’ construction and inherent in the dialogue somehow feel out of place.

By veering a little too much towards the sentimental, the production doesn’t quite grasp the inherently ironic and ambiguous perspective on society inherent in the text and character construction. A mixture of stark violence, borderline caricature and doses of sentimentality, Tim McArthur’s My Beautiful Laundrette certainly has its powerful moments, but as a whole this mixture doesn’t quite hit the spot.

 

 

 

Yannick Fernandes, Royce Ullah and Samantha Ritchie in My Beautiful Laundrette at Above the Stag Theatre 2011 - Photo by Derek Drescher
 

 

Box office: 020 8932 4747
 
www.abovethestag.com
 
Above the Stag Theatre

15 Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DD
 
7:30 pm Tue – Sat and 6pm Sun
 
£12 1-6 Mar / £15 8 Mar-10 Apr
 
 


Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved