East is East - Royal Court 1997
Set in Salford in the 1970s , the story is about a Pakistani father, George Khan, who has been married to an English woman, Ella Khan, for over 25 years. They have seven children who are half Pakistani and half English. George wants the children to follow the traditions of the Pakistani , but the children have other ideas! All but one of the children want to live their lives the way they want too, that’s the English way. This causes conflict, as the father demands respect from his children, and wife! and tells them, they have to obey his wishes without question. However, behind his back the children ridicule him, and go about their lives in their own way, but only in secret. Ella, his wife is caught in the middle. Does she side with her husband to force the children to follow the traditional way, or does she stick up for them, knowing if she does, she is likely to get a beating from George. The situation comes to a head when George has arranged for two of his sons to get married .
This is Ayub’s first play and a pretty good one as well. It is very powerful, and really highlights the problems that must face a lot of people in this country in the same situation. The play touches the heart strings a few times, it is warm and comical, yet at the same time very serious and violent. You can sympathise a little with George, who tries hopelessly to hang on to his values, at almost any cost, after all this is all he knows and he believes it is the best thing for his family. However, when he beats his wife and children , you soon lose that sympathy.
The acting is superb by Nasser Mamarzia, who plays the father, even if at first it takes a while to get used to his accent, a very convincing and realistic performance. Linda Bassett, his wife, stole the show for me though, as a warm , caring mother and loving wife, she relates her anxiety quite superbly and has great comic timing. So too does Gillian Hanna, who plays Auntie Annie, a friend of Ella’s.
An highly entertaining play on a very difficult subject.