East is East
East is East at The Churchill Theatre :
Monday 6th June 2015.
East is East is a play about a mixed ethnicity family in Salford, with the father, George Khan (played by Simon Nahra) trying to instil into his children the Pakistani values he grew up with whilst the mother, Ella Khan (played by Pauline McLynn) who is white and English born, is more realistic and appreciates that the children have increasing come to see themselves as British and reject all things from arranged marriages to traditional dress. George and Ella have 7 children although throughout this play you only see 6 of them, all but one are boys.
The show does well to build up the tension between Eastern and Western culture and this tension is the main focus on the play. This is not a fast moving show but the tension is needed for the climax of the family snapping and finally standing up to their husband/father after they witness his violence. Despite the play being set in the 1970’s and a lot changing in the post 9/11 world this play does not feel dated as this tension is ever present in today’s society.
The first Act did take a while to get going, using it to set the scene but Act 2 was when the show really gets to the heart of the matter, tackling the subject of domestic violence and also allows us a very short glimpse into George’s more vulnerable side.
The play, whilst on a serious subject does provoke some laughs with its opening scene being about the youngest son Sajit and the fact that George has just discovered that he has not been circumcised, speaking volumes about the lack of assistance he provided his wife with when Sajit was younger. There are also funny one liners, in reference to his daughters skirt wearing and stating she looks like his prostitute, only for Ella to retort that is it her school uniform.
The play was slick, with the cast undertaking all of the scene changes and continuing to stay in character throughout them. The set was well used and the backdrop of terraced houses remained constant throughout whilst the scene in front of it changed from a home, to a fish and chip shop – even to a hospital. A clever use of lighting also means that the play flows well and avoids having to change the set by simply lighting pools of the stage. These are both vital to the success of the play as due to the fact that there is no fast moving plot you could easily find your mind wandering throughout but these two successful techniques keep the attention of the audience.
The whole cast did well in portraying their characters. Adam Karim who played Sajit was very convincing as the youngest son with learning difficulties although I found it difficult to place his playing age. The driving force and focus of our empathy is with Pauline McLynn who portrays a mother with gritty determination who is put in the middle of the conflict between father and children, causing herself to question if she is a good mother. I did have some difficulty at times catching what the cast was saying, especially Simon Nagra but he had a strong accent and a large auditorium to contend with.
Whilst there is very little to criticise with this production I personally prefer shows that are a little faster moving and with some more dynamics – highs and lows more pronounced. This perhaps was not helped by the fact that I was unsure that the play had ended, perhaps showing how small the climactic ending actually was.
East is East is on at the Churchill Theatre Bromley until 11th July 2015 and then continues it’s tour to Torquay, Stoke, York and Glasgow throughout August & September.