East is East (Trafalgar Studios)
'It still works as a cunningly engineered drama of assimilation and resentments'
Ayub Khan Din's 1976 Salford family comedy remains a classic template for British Asian domestic drama down the years, and the marvel of Sam Yates's superbly cast revival - with the author himself playing the Muslim paterfamilias - is that it still works as a cunningly engineered drama of assimilation and resentments.
In the background, the border dispute between India and Pakistan is hotting up big-time. In the home and family fish and chip shop, Geoge Khan (known unaffectionately as "Ghengis"), who came to Britain in 1936, is setting up marriages for two of his five sons, arranging a belated circumcision for another and bouncing his cultural bullying off his abusive relationship with his tolerant wife, Ella.
The inequality and difficulty of this mixed marriage - charted with unforgiving candour in the writing - is further exacerbated in the brilliant, resilient but still doll-like performance of Jane Horrocks as an unlikely Ella Khan (a world away from Linda Bassett's in the original and in the film). Ella's sounding board is her Coronation Street-style neighbour, Sally Banks' ample Auntie Annie.
There's rich, black humour in Annie's no-nonsense incursions, as there is in Horrocks' domestic regimentation of her brood, shouting their names for the wake-up call and finally deploring the Muslim atrocities in the war, however much they read the Koran, while tolerating George's habitual attacks on her person.
A modern version of the play might make more of fundamentalist activity in the community, or even hint at it. Instead, we see the roots of a problem that hasn't gone away, only got worse. One victory of a sort is scored in the famous, hilarious tea-time scene where the boys insult the easily affronted parents of the proposed girl brides with the help of the artist son's blasphemously rude portrait painting.
This son is perfectly played by Nathan Clarke, but they're all good and cleverly delineated: Ashley Kumar's Tariq will soon be hitting the club scene, Amit Shah's more tentative Abdul will remain a regular at the mosque, possibly, while Michael Karim's recessive Sajit suffers his barbaric indignity while wrapping his parka round him like a second foreskin. Taj Atwal as the sole daughter suggests she won't be anyone's pushover, either.
Khan Din presents a monumental figure as George, a Muslim version of Harold Brighouse's Horatio Hobson 60 years earlier. Those same red brick back-to-backs and outdoor coal sheds are beautifully evoked in Tom Scutt's set, which incorporates scenes in the chippie, the kitchen and the adjacent alleys as if in a dream.
Following its run at Trafalgar Studios, East is East will embark on a short UK tour from 14 to 31 January 2015.