- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

East is East

Jamie Lloyd’s second Trafalgar Transformed season, which began with Martin Freeman as Richard III, continues with the first major London revival of Ayub Khan-Din’s 1996 classic, starring both the playwright and Jane Horrocks.

Set in Salford in 1970, the story looks at the strained marriage of George “Genghis” Khan Khan Din, a chip shop owner from Pakistan, and local white girl Ella Horrocks, focusing on the effect of this dual heritage – part Muslim, part Mancunian – on their seven children. One has already fled home, another is a hippy art student.

George is a domestic tyrant, and when the distant Bangladesh Liberation War threatens his generation’s Muslim identity, he reacts by trying to assert his power at home, forcing two of his sons into arranged marriages. Of course, Khan Din’s play is a comedy and the serious issues of identity and mixed heritage are neatly wrapped in some hilarious episodes, especially the climactic visit of the prospective in-laws.

Sam Yates’ lively production, with design by Tom Scutt, feels a bit cramped on this venue’s main stage and there is some clumsy blocking. But the two main performances, by Horrocks and Khan Din, are watchable studies in contrast, with the powerful stage presence of the latter towering over his stage wife, while Horrocks delivers a dignified reading of a gobby but vulnerable woman.

The couple’s kids – played by Taj Atwal, Nathan Clarke, Michael Karim, Ashley Kumar, Darren Kuppan and Amit Shah – provide vigorous support, and the other actors Sally Bankes, Rani Moorthy and Hassani Shapi are equally good. Yet this is more of a fun evening than a revelatory one.