East is East (Tour)
Making a welcome return to Birmingham, Ayub Khan Din's East is East opens its national tour at the New Alexandra Theatre. Seemingly unchanged from its West End stint, the cast, direction and staging remain strong in this piece from the second season of Trafalgar Transformed.
The play, which premiered across town at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1996, is still as relevant to the diverse local audience today as it was then. The culture clash between the Pakistani father and English mother is captured in an emotional and, above all, believable way through Khan Din's writing and newcomer Sam Yates's precise direction.
Set in Salford in the early 70s, the tale of the Khan family is revealed as a complicated clash of culture with all seven children taking a different view on their heritage and what their background actually means. Their opinions collide with their father, who sits on the firm side of discipline and respect, with their mother taking a softer approach forcing her to play the peacemaker.
Playing head of the family George, Khan Din's inherent knowledge and of the material proves a true asset to his delivery, his impressive stage presence used to full advantage. Jane Horrocks tackles the strong-minded wife Ella, her warm persona ensuring she easily convinces as both caring mother and devoted wife, the hard-working matriarch.
Sally Bankes adds humour as Auntie Annie, an outlet for Ella to express her discomfort at the often challenging family environment. And Ashley Kumar shines as the rebellious Tariq, who challenges his father's authority to a degree that is understandable but ultimately makes him vulnerable.
Transferring the show from the relatively intimate environs of the Trafalgar Studios is a challenge, and the vast space of the New Alexandra inevitably means that some of the connection with the actors is lost across the spacious stage and auditorium. But this is a minor quibble in an otherwise highly enjoyable evening.
East is East runs in Birmingham until 17 January and continues its short tour to Richmond and Manchester