Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Review | EAST IS EAST (UK Tour) January 2015

East Is East, the comedy-drama by Ayub Khan Din was first produced by Tamasha Theatre Company in co-production with the Royal Court and Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1996. Returning to Birmingham some 19 years later, it appears that Din's semi-autobiographical piece is as ever-relevant today in it's latest incarnation fresh from a three month run at the Trafalgar Studios. 

The play and subsequent film is often cited as one of the key works to bring Asian culture to mainstream British audiences and despite the variation in cultures attending, the play is welcoming on all parts with an equal dash of humour and good heart. It is highly comic as we see George Khan (played by writer Ayub Khan Din) struggle to cope with the changing world but at the same time, it takes it's toll and strains within the family unit make for some perhaps unexpected, harder hitting scenes.

It appeals on many levels, for it's much deeper than a mere opportunity to laugh at dated tradition. There are definitely stereotypes at the core but played with such conviction, notably the excellent Jane Horrocks as Khan's long-suffering wife Ella, you're wanting to reassure her of her credibility as a mother when she's left questioning her weakness in allowing her son to be circumcised as a religious rite. 

"Draw us a foreskin then!" cries only daughter Meenah to her art student brother Saleem. The children are bold and brash as they test new waters and attempt to overcome confusions about identity defining themselves as Pakistani, British and Muslim. understudy Deepal Parmar holds her own against the boys as a strong presence in the household as Meenah. There is also an endearing performance from Michael Karim as Sajit - a recluse in his own Parka coat.

Hilarity ensues at a climactic tea party between the Khan's and the parents of two sisters betrothed to brothers Abul and Tariq. I rarely laugh out loud, it takes a lot, but the hilarity is outrageous and altogether sidesplitting.

Mention must also go to designer Tom Scutt’s brilliant set - a cross between Coronation Street and Blood Brothers, the Salford terrace and chip shop that further authenticates the world in which you must escape to for a life affirming tale of one man's love for his family.

At Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre until Sat 17 January and then Richmond Theatre and Manchester Opera House - tickets for all venues here.

Cast List: Taj Atwal, Sally Bakes, Nathan Clarke, Jane Horrocks, Michael Karim, Johndeep More, Ayub Khan Din, Ashley Kumar, Darren Kuppan, Rani Moorthy, Amit Shah, Hassani Shapi, Pamela Bennett, Deepal Parmar, Ash Rizi, Karl Seth.

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