Having watched the film of East is East many years ago, I went along to with an open mind about what to expect from this touring production and how the strong cultural messages and differences in the Khan household are played.
East is East is a story about George Khan, played by Simon Nahra and his constant struggles in trying to give his children a strict muslim way of life. However when a series of events push the family to their limits, his wife Ella Khan played by Pauline McLynn, being British born, struggles with her loyalties to her children and her marriage to George.
My initial thoughts were that I perhaps wasn’t going to enjoy the play as much as I thought I would. I found Act 1 to take quite some time to develop and in parts it lacked humour and seemed to be slowly paced, something which I struggled with. However Act 2 is where everything really kicks off and each of the children understand the real goings on between their mother and father, with a performance that made my hair stand on end! I did struggle at times to understand Simon Nahra throughout the play, this maybe due to microphones not being used, therefore causing the diction to be slightly blurred with a strong accent too. It wasn’t until Act 2 that the heat really turned up and saw the family fighting, literally, for what they believed in. As well as a good few laughs too.
My favourite character was Auntie Annie played by Sally Bankes. She brought the whole family together and provided many of the laughs that this play needed. A real warmth shone through and I found myself wanting to see her more and her role within the family. It gave the story the much needed distraction and she could be seen as the middle-man in all of the goings on.
The staging was just right for this play, with a brick housing exterior being used, as well as also being the interior of the Khan household. I liked the use of the shed doors that enabled for the various interchangeable scenes to change. I liked how each scene change was done so by the cast and was done so in a smooth way in which scenes could change very quickly but without realising it had been done. I did feel that the lighting for this tour (or maybe the venue itself) had been a little rushed as I found that blocks of lighting left some parts a little darker than others, in times it needed better lighting, or softer tones. I found that stage right would have a brighter light come on and off throughout a particular scene, which was a little distracting, perhaps a lighting cue wasn’t in the right place, or someone trying to put something right?
Pauline McLynn brought a warmth to Mrs Khans role within the family and I instantly warmed to her and the mothering of their 7 children. Adam Karim who played Sajit played his character exceptionally well. I felt for him pretty much from the first scene in which he was picked upon by his brothers and sister about his ‘Twitch’ and learning difficulties. It enabled me to see the vulnerability of his character, with this changing in Act 2, with the Parka jacket finally coming off!
My usual choice is musical theatre rather than plays, therefore this wouldn’t be something I would have necessarily chosen to see. However I enjoyed the play and felt I enjoyed Act 2 more than the first act and the speed of the play seemed to flow well at this point. I was a little unsure with the ending and felt that the outcome of the events of the family hadn’t been fully explained, this furthermore demonstrated as the audience left it a little while before realising the play had ended. It did however leave me wanting to see more.
East is East continues at The Churchill Theatre until 11th July and then carries on it’s UK tour. Further information and tickets available at ATG Tickets – East is East