Birmingham Repertory Theatre – until 25 September 2021
Reviewed by 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 the theatre production. 25 years since the world premiere on the Birmingham REP’s stage.
A wonderful classic production set in Salford in the early 70’s shows life for an English-Pakistani family, their trials and tribulations are a small insight to what growing up for the 6 children/young adults would have been like for a mixed-race family during that time.
A great young cast were 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.
The only daughter of the family. Meenah, played by Amy-Leigh Hickman, known for parts in Ackley Bridge and the children’s TV series Tracey Beaker, was perfectly cast. Playing a stroppy teen born in England wanting to be accepted for who she was and not be excluded for the colour of her skin. Having 5 brothers she certainly gave as good as she got, and put them right in their place !
Along with the hilarious moments which was a real welcome treat after the 18 months or so that we have lived through, was a darker deeper side to the father of the family, George Khan, played by Tony Jayawardena, known also for a role in Ackley Bridge (Channel 4) and for many stage productions. 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 were all hearing a few scenes earlier. This is fantastic writing by Ayub Khan Din, the audience were really being drawn into the set of the living room when this was taking place.
This was my first theatre visit in just over 2 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.