A gargantuan, gilt-edged, shades of Pakistan-inspired gauze spectacularly frames the action at the Royal for this joint production of Ayub Khan-Din’s popular slice of multiculturalism.
Typically, for a show with Pilot Theatre Company’s involvement, the rest of Laura McEwan’s impressive Islamic-tinged designs – predominantly a huge set of pivoting stairs – is clambered upon and around during the production by the well-choreographed cast, moving to Ivan Stott’s well-selected musical mix of hits of the seventies mashed up with tabla and sitar, while the few props are shifted.
Ever-pertinent themes aside, East is East is an ensemble piece and the assembled throng of ten certainly do the piece justice. Jenys Chambers ensures that brash Ella’s steady determination to make George (Marc Anwar) realise he needs to change his ways and come to terms with the fact that the diaspora he inhabits is not lost amid the jokes and the trials of a family trying to find their place in seventies Salford.
The younger members of the cast do a sterling job of defining their different character traits. They include John Afzal’s boho art student Saleem, Chris Nayak’s keen to please Maneer, Damian Asher’s hard-working and straight-laced Abdul, Davood Ghadami’s ultra-modern Tariq, Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi’s coquettish and playful Meenah. But we could see Adam Deacon’s Sajit a bit more – he hides himself beneath his anorak for the bulk of the play – as he appears to be a good young comedy actor.
The script is peppered with gags but Damian Cruden does not let us forget the play’s historical context, mixing light and dark but stressing the serious points that Khan-Din makes.