National Theatre At Home
East Is East is a recent addition to National Theatre’s At Home catalogue and only appeared as a live production back in October – it was the first offering in the Lyttleton auditorium on their reopening.
It’s a co-production with Birmingham Rep celebrating the 25th anniversary of the play by Ayub Khan-Din which has often been cited as one of the most influential works in bringing South Asian culture to a British mainstream audience. Probably better known for the film version, it’s a powerful comedy-drama demonstrating the tensions along the fracture line of where lifestyles collide.
The Khan family live in Salford although at least part of father George’s heart still resides in Pakistan despite his forty years in the UK. He cannot reconcile himself to a system where he isn’t in charge and is at odds with his children over their adoption of new cultural norms.
He’s a petty tyrant who for much of the play is portrayed as ridiculous, ironically in much the same way as Alf Garnett used to be. However, he latterly reveals a tendency towards domestic violence taking out his anger on wife as he tries to adhere to ideas which he thinks will keep his culture alive.
In the first half, this revolves around getting youngest son Sajit circumcised and in the second forcing arranged marriages on two of the older boys, Abdul and Tariq. Meanwhile, the oldest son has already left home in protest, another pair of the brothers have retreated into the comfort zones of religion and art and the only girl, Meenah, is clearly shaping up to be a rebel with a cause.
Mum, Ella, tries to keep the peace and hold the family together, but it isn’t getting any easier and she finally cracks, precipitating the violence which follows.
‘This ensemble piece is exceptionally well cast & full of energy’: @JohnChapman398 tunes into @NationalTheatre & @BirminghamRep’s co-production of #EastIsEast. #NationalTheatreAtHome #onlinetheatre