East Is East

Published October 17, 2014

What’s it all about?

Those who have seen previous stage and screen productions of East Is East will be well-acquainted with the Salford-based Khan family at the centre of this 1971-set comedy drama. For those who haven’t, it comprises George, the Pakistani head of the household, his English wife Ella and their seven children. One child, the eldest, has already fled the family home, which should give you an idea of what the children think of their father’s overbearing, at times violent, parenting.

As they hear of the war threatening George’s home country on the news, another battle entirely is brewing within his own family, as he seeks to marry off two of his eldest sons. More attached to their English upbringing than their Pakistani heritage, the children do what they can to avoid the forced partnerships, until a disastrous tea party and a curious piece of art depicting a certain part of the female anatomy succeed in doing the job for them.

Who’s in it?

Jane Horrocks leads the cast of Sam Yates’ stunning revival in the complex role of Ella, her incredible performance encompassing protective mother, feisty wife and terrified victim all at once. In what is an autobiographical account of his upbringing, playwright Ayub Khan Din is both menacing and pitiful as the household’s explosive dictator George.

The lead pairing is well-supported by a fine cast that, among a wealth of incredible performances, includes Michael Karim as the twitching, Parka-sporting Sanjit, whose outerwear provides a means to hide from the world, and Sally Bankes as the flamboyant idiom-spouting Auntie Annie.

What should I look out for?

The many Khan family outbursts, not least the almighty eruption of Horrocks’ Ella in the company of her Pakistani guests.

In a nutshell?

Jane Horrocks steals the show in this compelling revival of Ayub Khan Din’s timeless portrait of family life.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@Lolitachakra Just saw #EastIsEast @TrafStudios Hats off to Ayub Khan Din and the excellent cast for an important play back on the London stage.

‏@NargisWalker What a great show #EastIsEast @TrafTransformed – had us crying with laughter and tears Dark, tender, funny. Loved it.

Will I like it?

East Is East tackles big subjects – of immigration, religion and national identity – but it also makes you laugh… and cry… and wince, even more so when you remind yourself that George is Khan Din’s portrayal of his own overbearing father.

It not only explores the impact that moving to a new country has on immigrants and their children, it also paints a vivid portrait of family life that everyone can identify with, meaning that the play continues to remain timely as it moves further away from its 1970s setting.

East Is East is playing at the Trafalgar Studio 1 until 3 January. You can book tickets through us.

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