My Beautiful Laundrette is an affectionate stage adaptation of an iconic 80s story told originally on screen. Inevitably, in Liverpool at least, it therefore currently invites comparison with last year’s acclaimed retelling of Boys from the Blackstuff at the Royal Court. Unhappily, those comparisons are not entirely favourable.

Hanif Kureishi has adapted his own Oscar-nominated screenplay for the stage, and so the writing credentials are certainly there. As a collaboration between Theatre Nation Partnership and Leicester’s Curve theatre with backing from the National Theatre’s Generate programme to support work outside London, My Beautiful Laundrette has some great pedigree behind it. However, unlike Blackstuff, this play felt dated. It shouldn’t do, given that the issues with which it grapples are so current.

My Beautiful Laundrette, photo taken at Curve Leicester by Ellie Kurttz

This the story of Omar (Lucca Chadwick-Patel), a young British Pakistani living in Thatcher’s London who transforms his uncle’s dilapidated laundrette into a successful business, building a relationship with classmate turned fascist Johnny (Sam Mitchell) along the way. It is about immigration and race; class and inequality, and also gender roles, with Omar’s cousin Tania (Sharan Phull) railing against her lack of freedom and seeking to take control of her own destiny.

While times have changed since the original 1985 film, all of these themes remain as pertinent and complex as they did almost 40 years ago. But the depiction of them here feels shallow and many of the performances broad. Sometimes this approach gets a rueful laugh from the audience – such as the suggestion that “skinheads are one of Britain’s most successful exports” – but those National Front nasties are so cartoonishly depicted that the real insidious danger of their perspective is somehow lost.

Perhaps this two hours of theatre takes on too much, as the characters, their hinterlands and motivations remain tantalisingly out of reach as the narrative rattles along. Johnny’s transition from racist thug to his romance with Omar is not really fleshed out, and the latter’s ability to forgive and forget is joltingly swift. However, there are things to like. An 80s soundtrack is always welcome, and there are thought-provoking moments around notions of belonging, loyalty and identity. But unlike in Blackstuff, we never really get to know Omar, Johnny or anyone else. Therefore we never really get to care.

My Beautiful Laundrette is at the Liverpool Playhouse until March 30, 2024 and on tour. For more information, click here.