Close this search box.

Review: My Beautiful Laundrette at The Lowry is ‘a passionate tale of hidden love’

My Beautiful Laundrette is currently playing at The Lowry, and is huge fun for fans of the film
My Beautiful Laundrette

When Daniel Day Lewis’s rough, ready and uber confident character Johnny popped into a run-down launderette and met Gordon Warnecke’s Omar in Stephen Frears’ 1985 film of Hanif Kureshi’s play, something edgy yet magical took place.

This tale of forbidden love set against the backdrop of Thatcherism and deep divisions within society spoke to audiences, yet there was something uplifting beneath the stifling political climate.

My Beautiful Laundrette at The Lowry

My Beautiful Laundrette

This production produced by Curve played at the brilliant Leicester Theatre to great reviews.

For fans of the film, Gordon Warnecke is back and clearly loving the fact that his My Beautiful Laundrette story is continuing from film to stage. This time he is playing the father of Omar, the character he played in the film.

Incredible chemistry

What you need in a production like this one is chemistry between the two leads. And Sam Mitchell (Johnny) and Lucca Chadwick-Patel (Omar) have that and then some.

As soon as they clap their eyes on each other, something dangerously addictive begins to form.

Unlike Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing, which is steeped in optimism through the hot summer heatwave which beats the naysayers and homophobes into submission, here the weather prospects look grey and overcast, and the dark clouds do not look like they are going to shift anytime soon.

But Omar’s uncle Nasser (Kammy Darweish) wants someone to take care of his run-down laundrette and the two opposites give it a fresh lick of paint and light it up, so that it looks like one of those Levi jeans commercials from the 1980s

Before long, locals hear about it through the grapevine and it becomes a highly profitable business.

The story explores far more than this though, as we take a long hard look at identity. Omar was born in the UK, and even though his confidence grows as a result of this business and his exciting and new relationship, his past is his present too.

He and Johnny know each other from their childhood, but Johnny became seduced by street crime, as there was nothing else for him.

Racism rears its ugly head, and this is stirred up through the politics played out on TV. Sound familiar?

A secret long-term love affair

Meanwhile, Nasser has been keeping a long-term love affair secret, and Omar and Johnny are becoming more open about their relationship.

Will it all come out in the wash, or will it need more than some Persil to wash this away?

The politics that runs through the film like the letters in a stick of rock remains, and it is vital because the divide between rich and poor remains today, and racism still exists and these fires are stoked for votes.

As we look back, we see how people were seduced by the promise of the yuppie-style existence in the 1980s, at whatever cost. So it became dog eat dog.

Transferring a beloved film to the stage without many changes to the screenplay does cause a few problems.

You often hear political statements and piercing dialogue which speaks volumes in cinema, but this would be followed by an edit.

Here, what follows is great deal of movement, change of lighting, and music. The play feels like it is a washing machine changing cycles. Smoother transitions and more contemporary additions to the script would make it far more seamless.

Where director Nicole Behan really does a great service to the film and the theatre, is through the dynamic between the two protagonists.

Sam Mitchell as Johnny

When they are in a scene together, the play really springs to life. Sam Mitchell brings out Johnny’s swagger, streetwise devil-may-care attitude, alongside the fact that he just wants to be loved. This is not easy to carry off, but he does it with aplomb.

Lucca Chadwick-Patel grows as a performer from scene to scene. His Omar is a quiet wallflower who blossoms whenever Johnny enters the room. Johnny is his plant food, and he stands as tall as a sunflower, as a result of his love and care.

Sharan Phull as cousin Tania, who Omar is expected to marry, conveys her character’s deep frustration, as she navigates being a strong woman on the outside.

Yet, when she is at home, she has to stand back and fade into the background and is just seen as a woman waiting for a husband.

You long for her to escape and be successful due to Phull’s committed performance.

Emma Bown manages to morph seamlessly into two very different roles – a male yob friend of Johnny’s and Nasser’s hidden mistress. And she does this with ease.

Paddy Dally also flits between two roles, switching accents – working class one minute and middle class the next and his body language is exquisite.

Kammy Darweish plays a small town Gordon Gekko with a launderette but with ambitions beyond that. He has some great lines which typify the idea that you have to stamp on others to get what you want.

Hareet Deol’s Salim strides confidently across the stage in his pink suit and George Michael-style hair from the Faith era and he plays it for all its worth.

For fans of Stephen Frears’ film, Gordon Warnecke’s performance fills you with nostalgia, as he stands alongside his original character, listening to the words he uttered, yet still managing to embody and express his character’s left-wing views with a knowing look towards to the audience.

This is a play that works incredibly well if you know the film. You will get what you came for and more.

If you remember the key scenes featuring Johnny and Omar talking politics and falling in love and long to revisit them, amongst the soap suds and whirring washing machines, you will really enjoy returning to their beautiful laundrette.

Tickets for My Beautiful Laundrette at The Lowry

My Beautiful Laundrette is at The Lowry until 23rd March. Tickets can be booked here

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

Want to be the first to receive all the latest news stories, what’s on and events from the heart of Manchester? Sign up here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Close this search box.