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East Is East review at Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – ‘impressively energetic’

The cast of East Is East at Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Photo: Pamela Raith
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Ayub Khan Din’s Olivier-winning comedy drama, East Is East, about a mixed race family in 1970s Salford is revived with meticulous care in this hugely enjoyable and moving new co-production from Northern Stage and Nottingham Playhouse.

Director Suba Das does a masterly job of bringing to life this tale of identity confusion, played out through the messy lives of Pakistani-born George Khan, his English wife Ella and their seven children.

Das has crafted his energetic production with extraordinary care and attention, considering every detail and gesture from the way Ella lights cigarettes to the nervous ticks and twitches of her youngest son Saleem.

Similarly, Grace Smart’s neat revolving set is also effective and intelligent. The Khan’s living room is full of 1970s period detail, with chintzy china ducks flying up the migraine-inducing wallpaper.

It’s this unwavering commitment to authenticity that enables the audience to fully buy into a play that shifts from knockabout comedy to brutal domestic violence.

Former Corrie star Vicky Entwhistle gives a passionate and gritty portrayal of Ella, a woman who has been worn down by years of trying to bridge the ever-widening gulf between George and their children. Kammy Darweish is also brilliant as George, effortlessly eliciting, by turns, the audience’s sympathy and loathing as he tries in vain to command the respect of his children.

Judy Flynn is a delight as Ella’s friend Annie who cheerfully chats about circumcision and suicide over endless fags and cups of tea, while out of the Khan children, Deven Modha shines as the prissy, yet likeable Maneer.

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Impressively energetic and meticulously staged revival of a contemporary classic