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east is east at the northern stage

East is East review

East is East at Northern Stage

~ a guest blog review by Cheish Merryweather

In 1999, British comedy film East Is East was a mainstream success winning over both audiences and critics. Screenwriter Ayub Khan-Din has since brought his semi-autobiographical story back to the stage so audiences could be presented face-to-face with issues surrounding multiculturalism, adolescence and family life.

Khan-Din explained, “I was in drama school in 1982 and becoming aware of how few brown faces were on TV and stage (and when they were it was usually a girl who didn’t want an arranged marriage). I wanted to get the stories of our family down on paper.” 

We experience life in 1970s Salford through the eyes of Sajit, which peek out from under the hood of the filthy parka jacket, which he refuses to take off.  The parka becomes a huge discussion point throughout the play as the lack of hygiene frustrates his siblings but provides Sajit with a protective layer he won’t let go of. 

We can learn a lot about the Khan family life during the first act.  There is a deep love between the parents, Ella and George, although as time has passed they fail to communicate with each in a manner that isn’t volatile.

east is east

Ella herself, played by Coronation Street’s Vicki Entwistle, balances fierceness with timidity to perfection.  George is played by Kammy Darweish, who is well suited for the role as the domineering father who is resented by his own children. He presents a consistently gloomy contrast to all the joy and laughs that surround him.

The siblings (all six of them which appear) have such a natural chemistry together it’s hard to believe they haven’t known each other for a lifetime.  Their different personalities contrast in such a humorous way, even when they have each other in a headlock or by the throat they are still highly entertaining. 

Every performance was heartfelt, relatable and beautiful. Throughout the show, we are provided with plenty of laughs despite the painful events unfolding on stage.  East is East is a reflection on how large families learn to survive emotionally – just add humor to make it all the better.  Hidden behind the comedy, the ethical lessons are there, the moral being no matter how you identify – British or Pakistani – family is everything. 

East Is East is a story that landed its big break on-screen but truly belongs on the stage. 

East is East is showing at Northern Stage now till 13th May. 

~ a guest blog review by Cheish Merryweather

You can book tickets for East is East at the Northern Stage here.

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