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East is East - Trafalgar Studios 2014

Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton

It's wonderful to see Ayun Khan-Din's play East is East, originally premiered at the Royal Court in 1997 and subsequently made into a feature film in 1999, emerge as a contemporary classic that is fully deserving of a West End revival now.

It is being staged as part of the Trafalgar Transformed season, presented under the auspices of Jamie Lloyd Productions. But it is directed this time by Sam Yates, not Lloyd himself, so it is also good to see this creative initiative stretching its arms wider than one talent.

The play, often comic yet also tough, is an uncompromising portrait of the limits of cultural assimilation in 1970s Salford, as it shows the stains and tensions of a mixed race family - Pakistani immigrant father George Khan, white English mother Ella, and their seven children - who run a fish and chip shop in the city.

Khan-Din, who also now plays the father in his own play, doesn't stint on the man's abusive bullying towards his wife and kids. But there's also a tender humanity to the play's portrait of each of their struggles and foibles. Jane Horrocks is both practical and pained as the wife, trying to protect her brood from the man she loves.

Their six sons and one daughter are brought to fully-inhabited life by a sterling company of young actors, with a particularly touching performance from Michael Karim as Sajit, the youngest son.

Sam Yates and his designer Tom Scutt bring a period realism to the setting, but the play strikes a universal resonance for any time and any family.


"There is a sense of the production's being slightly undercooked. Horrocks's performance is as the redoubtable Ella is polished and Taj Atwal is sparky as Meenah, But Khan Din gives a curiously hesitant performance as George: both his violence and his charisma are oddly muted..."
Jane Shilling for The Telegraph

"A lot has happened in the wake of 9/11 to make one wonder whether the equivalents of the Khan children now would more exercised about their identity. It hasn't dated the piece, though, which has prescient touches and is still brilliantly alive in its verbal comedy. A great night out."
Paul Taylor for The Independent

"One of the great pleasures of the play is the way, whatever your cultural background, it tells the truth about family life and the way that love and hate are bound together."
Lyn Gardner for The Guardian

"The grimmer scenes of domestic abuse seem contrived, and the production doesn't always feel sharply focused. But any opportunity to see Horrocks onstage is a treat."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard

External links to full reviews from popular press
Telegraph - The Independent - The Guardian

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