I have never seen the film East is East, so I couldn’t compare this stage version to the original motion picture like everyone else was on press night. Currently on stage at the boutique theatre Trafalgar Studios, this revival of Ayub Khan-Din’s play offers an insight into the multicultural issues which arise in a joint faith marriage and consequently affect the mixed race Pakistani-English children.
The audience quickly get to know George and Ella Khan and six of their seven headstrong children. Brought up in 1970s Salford with a strict Pakistani father, the kids witness a cultural clash between their surroundings and their heritage, eager to please their tyrannical dad whilst still making their own life decisions. Pakistan’s troubles at the time are often mentioned and are of paramount importance to George’s running of the family. Back in his hometown his first wife receives regular gifts of material from him, and we hear about the political upheaval from TV and radio updates.
The cast work together immaculately to form the volatile Khan family. Jane Horrocks is delicate but daring as the mother stuck between her aggressive husband and demanding children, and I particularly warmed to Sally Bankes as Auntie Annie, Ella’s much needed friend. Also memorably impressive is Michael Karim who plays Sajit the youngest and most disturbed child hidden under his Parka hood.
The dusty brick stage remains in place throughout the play despite the changes in location. It became a little confusing when they attempted to transform the homely space into a chip shop. It is thoughtfully directed by rising star, Sam Yates who manages to create an evocative home environment, and finds excitement in the mundane.
East is East is a beautifully acted play which remains harshly relevant today. An intelligent comedy which leaves one questioning the society we live in.
Continues until 3 January 2015, book tickets here.