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THEATRE REVIEW: East Is East @ Northern Stage

April 29, 2017 11:00 am

18th April – 13th May

For more of Northern Stage’s listings, please click here.

Review by Megan Thompson. 

East is East illustration

With the 1996 Olivier Award winning play by Ayub-Khan Din, and the 1999 Bafta-award winning film being one of Britain’s best loved comedies, it is fair to say that the cast and creative team of the Nottingham Playhouse’s new adaptation of East is East must have had a challenge on their hands. But they have reimagined this timeless story with a whole new collection of faces, and this production was nothing short of pure comedy gold.

Set in 1970s Salford, East is East tells the story of the Khan family – headed by patriarch George Khan: a strict Muslim who, though he cares for his family, seems to value his own image and reputation over their happiness. George is played brilliantly by Kammy Darweish, who switches faultlessly between a rambling, animated, stressed-out father who just wants the best for his children to a darker, more fearful character who will stop at nothing to control his family. His long suffering wife Ella, played by the hilarious Vicky Entwistle, tries her best to keep the peace between George and her gaggle of children, whilst also managing to run the family chippy and set aside plenty of time for tea, biscuits and a gossip with ‘Aunty Annie’, her hilariously loveable best friend played by the hysterically funny Judy Flynn.

When watching this play, you almost forget that these characters have all been played before, because the entire cast of ‘East is East’ bring a brand new sense of freshness and originality to them.

Simon Rivers gives a sensitive portrayal of second eldest child Abdul, who has been forced to act as a mature father figure to make up for his dad’s inability to behave so, and the eldest brother’s absence. Omar Malik plays third eldest son Tariq wonderfully. Tariq is the most rebellious of the Khan’s: usually the first to question his father and try to persuade his siblings to go against his demands, and Malik gives the audience a real insight into how difficult it must be to grow up in a family whose traditions and expectations contradict your own.

Saleem Khan, played by the fantastic Raj Bajaj, is the middle child and is studying art at college (or, if his father asks, it’s ‘engineering’). Whilst Saleem’s battle to complete his art course without his father finding out provides a lot of comedy, it also represents the conflict in the Khan family, and the fact that the children are trying their best to please their father whilst being unable to be the people they truly want to be.

Perhaps my favourite performance of the whole night however came from that of Deven Modha, whose portrayal of the preppy, geeky and pretentious Maneer Khan had the entire audience in stitches; and if the show wasn’t hilarious enough, Sabrina Sandhu’s bold performance as the confident and gutsy Meenah Khan only heightened the comedy even more. The Khan clan was rounded off by youngest member Sajid, played by the talented Viraj Juneja. The play is seen through the eyes of Sajid, who has immersed himself in his own little imaginary world to distance himself from the chaos going on around him. Sajid’s beloved parka coat, which he refuses to take off, is symbolic of many things. With his father’s obsession with arranging marriages for his children, and the war between East and West Pakistan, Sajid’s parka represents a desire to remain invisible in, not just their family, but a world where there is so much conflict.

All in all, this wonderful new adaptation of East is East was an absolute delight to watch! The entire cast were phenomenal, and the creative team did an incredible job of the set, immersing the stage in corduroys, tea cosies, quirky and colourful mismatched furniture, and funky patterned wallpaper in thousands of shades of brown to recreate a homely 70s family living room.

I would highly recommend people get tickets to see this show before it finishes on 13th May, and immerse yourself in a world of British/Asian culture, arranged marriages, comedy, tragedy, family conflict, and the greatest thing of all – fish and chips!

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