20 Questions: East is East's Ayub Khan-Din – 'Never ever read your own reviews'

We chat to the play’s writer who is also starring opposite Jane Horrocks in the production at the Trafalgar Studios

1. Where and when were you born?

Born, Hope Hospital Salford. July 1961.

2. What made you want to become an actor/writer?

My brothers and sisters were all hairdressers. On leaving school with no qualifications my parents insisted I work with them. It was awful, and I soon left. But one day another junior was reading David Niven's The Moon’s a Balloon and I thought if he can go from being in the army to becoming an actor, then so can I.

3. If you hadn’t become an actor/writer, what might you have done professionally?

I now think I’d like to have become a dry stone waller/mason.

4. First big break?

The film Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, directed by Stephen Freers.

5. First big break in theatre?

East is East as a playwright.

6. Career highlights to date?

East is East and my shows being staged by the New Group on Broadway.

7. Any regrets?

No, nothing….Maybe a tryst with a beautiful Swedish woman when I was 21 and she was 40! But I chickened out. She’d seen me in a show… So she may well have been a nutter!

8. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?

The Technicians by Olwen Wymark. I luckily got to meet Olwen many years later and was able to tell her what an influence she had on me. She gave me my very own signed copy of the play!

9. And the last?

I saw my first big musical in New York recently, Pippin which was spectacular. Particularly to me a musical virgin.

10. Who are your acting/writing idols?

Tennessee Williams, Joe Orton, Harold Pinter, Alan Benet, Jack Rosenthal. I could name many more.

11. What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Never ever read your own reviews!

12. Why was this the right time to bring back East is East?

Why not? It was a successful award winning comedy that always makes it’s money back. Perfectly good reasons.

13. How have you prepared for the role of George Khan?

I’ve been cooking lots of chips and beating my children.

14. Favourite moment in the show?

The curtain call with the rest of the cast!

15. Any rehearsal room mishaps?

I fell on my arse twice. Not my fault, someone had decided to put casters on the furniture.

16. What do you hope people take away from the show?

Not for me to say.

17. Does the show still have the same impact as it did in 1996?

The play is more relevant today, as we look at the impact multi-culturalism has had on our society. In many ways it allowed the British Asian community to mature and grow in confidence. But the flip side of that is, that it also allowed certain portions of that community, to use multi-culturalism as an excuse to recuse themselves from assimilating into the host society. Many of the arguments we are having today, can be levelled at men like my father. Men, who made the choice to leave their worlds behind, to make new lives for themselves, in a different country, with a different set of cultural values. But it’s these same men, who continually deny their own children the right to decide where their cultural influences can come from.

18. What's your favourite post-show hang out?

I’ve been a member of Blacks for years but as I live in Spain, I tend to rush back so I can skype my wife.

19. If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

The Pope.

20. What's next for you?

I’m developing a new TV series with channel 4. I’ve got a new short play with the National Theatre’s Connections programme, for Youth theatres and drama colleges around the country.

East is East runs at the Trafalgar Studios until 3 January 2015.