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Belgrade B2 review: My Beautiful Launderette

My Beautiful Launderette, Belgrade B2, to Nov 2. A classic 1980s film has been brought to the stage with top music by stars of the time, and a reminder of some of the harsher elements of that decade. It’s 34 years since the film written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Stephen Frears excited and shocked, with its tale of the British Pakistani Omar and his schoolfriend, English boy Johnny, unexpectedly meeting again during the latter’s racist attack, and becoming workmates and lovers. The story revolves around Omar turning his uncle’s wrecked launderette into a successful business, reflecting the Thatcherite ideals of the time and those of his immigrant family. Their ruminations on the conflicts between the life left behind and in their chosen home in England, still ring true today. However the violence of the jobless skinheads who keep attacking them, and from whom Johnny is trying to escape, feels like something from far longer ago. A lot of Kureishi’s dialogue comes over as dated and clunky, giving the actors an extra challenge. Jonny Fines and Omar Malik at times seem artificial in their conversations, though at others the sexual tension between the characters is clear to see. Kammy Darweish shines as conflicted Uncle Nasser, and Cathy Tyson as his mistress Rachel makes her fairly small role stand out. Gordon Warnecke as Omar’s philosopher/drunk father also brings pathos to the role, and Nicole Jabeli as young Tania, expected to go along with an arranged marriage, demonstrates rebellion against her fate. The excellent stage set is ever-moving and attractive, and Pet Shop Boys' music overlays the frequent on-stage scene changes. Their hits are the background for the club scenes, providing a welcome lifting electronic beat for a story which has more darker sides than remembered from the film.

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