My Beautiful Laundrette @ Queens Theatre Hornchurch Review

Hanif Kureishi’s much loved screenplay is adapted masterfully for the stage in 2019. The story takes a life of its own with characters given more development in the way only theatre allows, with asides and fanciful monologues, that humanise the stuffy Pakistani patriarchs and skinheads alike.

Set in South London during the Thatcher years, the story is told through the eyes of a young mixed-race Pakistani, Omar, who is intent of making a success out of his uncle’s run-down launderette with old school friend and part-time fascist Johnny.

My Beautiful Launderette paints a complex picture and narrative of male masculinity and relationships which explore father-son relationships, brotherly love, friendship and queer love, competition between the ideal Pakistani man and the Westernised ethnic, and finally leadership and pack mentality. Power, love and freedom are main motivators in the play and the various variations of how these dynamics play out between different characters is what makes this story so irresistible to watch. Chemistry is palpable, especially between the main two protagonists Omar and Johnny played impeccably by Lucca Chadwick-Patel and Sam Mitchell.

Speaking of impeccable performances, Gordon Warnecke plays Papa beautifully which makes total sense when you find out that he played Omar Malik in the original film in 1985. You can read the interview with Warnecke with The Belgrade Theatre here. Warnecke’s comic timing especially deserves special mention along with his ability to be lovable even whenbeing a complete twat. Speaking of lovable twats, Paddy Daly’s depiction of Genghis, the Paki-hungry racist and political anarchist, is extraordinary. It is testament to what great actors can do with nuanced writing.

The play is fuelled by sex and the pursuit of power which often feels wrought with an undertone of sex-adjacent passion. In early scenes Kureishi primes the audience to expect rude provocation with Omar’s uncle near enough dry humping his secretary-cum-mistress with sounds that feels transgressive and voyeuristic for the audience. I am rarely prudish, but I was thoroughly entertained by a gentleman sat behind me who made soft sounds of outrage at every X-rated pun.

Kureishi also seeks to provoke the audience by poking fun at Englishman and Pakistanis alike, in a way some may find offensive, but does it in a way which comes off clever and charming. The very macho Pakistani Nasser makes a quip about clocking the fascist gang members because of the smell of gravy and Yorkshire puddings, cleverly inverting the racist stereotype of Pakis smelling like curry.

There are some areas for improvement however, such as the two female characters whose stories, in contrast, are rather one-dimensional. The style of the play also could have been more nuanced, for example, we had a set that for some reason looked a bit alien with a blueish, grey tinge painted over the whole thing. The overall creative vision clashes with the sparkle and wit of the play and the quality of performances from every single member of the cast.

I heartily recommend this show for anyone who enjoys dark humour and queer love with a side cutting social and philosophical commentary. I laughed a lot and enjoyed it so much I went to watch it again on the final night at Queens Theatre Hornchurch, who I might add, have what I believe to be the most comfortable seats in London theatre and wonderful front-of-house.

Review written by Tasnim Siddiqa Amin.

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My Beautiful Launderette in on tour until 6 April 2024. View tour dates and locations here.


Written by Theatrefullstop