The show originally played at the Royal Court Theatre in 1997, earning an Olivier Award nomination for best comedy and leading to a succesful film adaptation two years later.
Having remembered watching the film back in 1999 I was very keen to see this production of East Is East. I entered a competition to win tickets and was over the moon when I won through London Theatre Direct!
I’ve never been to Trafalgar Studios, but the intimate auditorium that they afforded this show was the perfect setting.
The staging was cleverly done with a backdrop of Victorian brick terraced houses with attached brick outhouses. The atmospheric noises being played whilst you took your seat made for an interesting start to the evenings entertainment.
The play itself, depicting a 1970’s Salford Pakistani family covered many difficult topics from arranged marriages, multiple wives, cultural differences and the sticky topic of domestic violence. The strong cast rises to the challenge admirably. Jane Horrocks as English mum Ella and Ayub Khan Din (writer) as immigrant dad George are not only believable but endearing as the couple with opposite beliefs but with the same goal which is to do right by their seven children.
The content is tough but with sympathetic writing there are some very funny moments. The scenes about circumcision, the family-run chip shop, introduction of the prospective arranged marriages, and Saleem’s (Nathan Clarke) art work ‘model’ were all really amusing.
We soon find out that Sajit’s (Michael Karim) refusal to ever remove his Parka is because he feels it’s his shield against the harmful world. The revelation both moving and engaging.
East Is East is thought provoking and challenges many areas: The cultural discussion of when do you class yourself as being English or alternatively if or when do you stop passing your beliefs and traditions on to your children? It also made me question when the Kashmir issue was being discussed, what humanity has learnt about wars in the time that has passed.
Meenah’s (Taj Atwal) back chat and Tariq’s (Ashley Kumar) strength of character acting was a pleasure to watch as were the performances of Amit Shah, Darren Kuppan, Sally Bankes.
For a difficult challenging piece this was expertly crafted and I enjoyed it, awarding it with a ★★★★ review.
East Is East review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer (@carnfarmer)
East Is East is playing at the Trafalgar Studios for a limited run until 3 January 2015.