The first thing that impresses is the amazingly realistic and yet theatrical set for this sterling production of East is East directed by Sam Yates. The brick work on the house walls is super real in texture and depth and the whole space has a very lived in atmosphere redolent of the early 1970s back to back slums of Salford before the slum clearance programmes a decade later. Designer Tom Scutt has done a superb job in realising the whole effect and allowing for creativity within it. With the bombed out side walls looking like they might crumble away any second the whole effect is of survival in difficult surroundings and that duly reflects the whole mood of this funny and moving play. All the coal black doors are designed as outside privy doors and get plenty of usage as the cast make rapid entrances and exits that become almost the percussive heart beat of the play.
The cast of eleven are a ball of collective energy throughout, constantly re-realising the stage space through their positioning and rapid placement of furniture and go from funny to violent to angry and frustrated and intermittently to loving all on the turn of a silver shilling. The changing moods are also enhanced by Richard Howell's elegant lighting design.
Pauline McLynn and Simon Nagra shine as the English wife Ella to Pakistani husband George Khan and the penultimate scene of violence between them is hard to watch. George Khan is a tyrannical father to their seven children one of whom we never see but is hated by the father for having left home to pursue a life out of reach of his 'respect me or else I kill you - you bastard' tirades. He is a man of his generation and background, antiquated in his enforcement of unquestioning total respect for the father and totally blind to the alienation he causes in his family. He idealises his home country and is also fearful of what the uprisings and violence in Pakistan will have on his culture and religion and ultimately his family that he purports to love.
Ayub Khan Din's incredible play works on many levels and throughout the audience is gripped and swept along as they laugh at the many comedic goings on and gasp at the raw reality of the Khan family bickering and making up. The language is fruity, funny, demanding and a true culture shock when the shit finally hits the proverbial fan in the second half. The acting from all the cast is utterly perfect and this reviewer would highly recommend a visit to this exemplary piece of theatre currently playing at Theatre Royal Nottingham.
Originally published by Nottingham Live on Tuesday 28th July 2015