Birmingham Repertory Theatre – until 25 September 2021
Guest reviewer: Nadia Dodd
Having been a fan of the film, I was more than delighted to accept the invitation to go along to the press night of East Is East, 25 years since the world premiere on the Birmingham REP’s stage.
A wonderful classic production set in Salford in the early 70s shows life for an English-Pakistani family, their trials and tribulations offering a small insight to what growing up for the six children/young adults would have been like for a mixed-race family during that time.
A great young cast is perfectly chosen it would appear, having the audience in fits of laughter and giggles when arguing as siblings do about helping around the house and being expected to help out their parents (especially their Dad) in the family business, a fish and chip shop.
Amy-Leigh Hickman is perfectly cast as the only daughter of the family, Meenah, a stroppy teen born in England wanting to be accepted for who she is and not to be excluded for the colour of her skin. Having five brothers, she certainly gives as good as she gets, and puts them right in their place.
Along with the hilarious moments which are a real welcome treat after the 18 months or so that we have lived through, is a darker deeper side to the father of the family, George Khan, played by Tony Jayawardena.
George came to England from Pakistan with nothing and gradually built his own business, his pride and joy, the fish and chip shop, managed very well most of the time by his English wife Ella Khan, played by Sophie Stanton. George loves his mixed race family but does try to make them abide by Pakistani morals which they are not very keen on at all.
There are a few scenes of domestic abuse between George and Ella, then George and one of his sons, which is a stark contrast to the laughter we all hear a few scenes earlier. This is fantastic writing by Ayub Khan Din, the audience is really being drawn into the set of the living room when this is taking place.
This was my first theatre visit in just over two years and it was just what I needed to get back into the swing of it all. Fantastic theatre, amazing show and a truly wonderful atmosphere. The standing ovation as the cast took their final bow said it all – we are all glad to be back watching live performances. You have until the 25th September to experience East is East for yourself at the Birmingham Rep.
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