Theatre Review: East is East

Tanveer Mann Monday 03rd November 2014 07:41 EST

Playwright Ayub Khan Din is back with all time favourite, East is East, but this time it has returned to its roots and with a particularly personal tone. Din joins the cast as overbearing father George Khan in this humorous revival by director Sam Yates. Largely autobiographical, we see how George is torn between his determination to raise his children as traditional Pakistani Muslims and the fact that they feel more British than anything.

The hilarious yet poignant play, which was later made into a hugely successful film, deals with issues that still resonate today. Set in 1970s Salford, the stage captures the grittiness of Salford’s brick walls, alleyways and slums, providing the perfect backdrop for the domestic tensions that occur within the home.

The drama unfolds at the start with an extremely agitated George who has just found out that his youngest son, Sajit, played by Michael Karim, has not been circumcised. The story then propels into exploring a number of different issues, switching between the domestic drama in the household and the fish and chip shop George owns.

Fighting to establish where he belongs, Pakistan or Britain, George translates his confusion into a tyrannical rule of his children. Seeing them adopting western ways, he forces them to submit to arranged marriages. So ensues a bitter struggle between a father and his children, both who are fighting to establish their own identity, in the backdrop of anti-immigration sentiment and racism.

Din masters the behaviour of his larger than life character George Khan – portraying with ease his tyrannical nature but also a man wrought with anxiety and distress. The turning point of the play is when we see George break down on stage - the point where the play goes from a comedy to something much more serious. Except for an accent issue, which is achingly calling for attuning, Din’s performance is otherwise exceptional.

Likewise, Ella, played by Jane Horrocks, cuts a forlorn figure, under her tough exterior. A loving wife and dedicated mother, she is torn between her husband and her children. Doing everything to please her husband and keep her family together, she succumbs to shocking bouts of abuse from George. The culmination is when George violently beats her. Uncomfortable to watch, it is even more painful to witness Ella returning back to normality.

Performances by Tariq (Ashley Kumar), Saleem (Nathan Clarke), Maneer (Darren Kuppan), Sajit (Michael Karim), are spectacular, depicting the intensely fused and fraught relationships they experience in their attempt to find an identity. Overall, a thoroughly moving play, which will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

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