23-27 June 2015
Reviewed by Hilary Whates
Having lived in Manchester in a terraced house in the early 70s this play particularly intrigued me as it is set in 1971. The clever use of the stage set was certainly somewhat reminiscent of that era although I think made to look a little more ramshackle than was reality.
Billed as a comedy this is a play which is actually very complex and comprises of a multitude of facets. It really does make you think – especially so if you are not in the situation that the characters are in as perhaps you wouldn’t bother to consider the very real dilemmas being in a mixed race family can bring.
During the first half of the play we are introduced to the family, the Khan’s, who comprise of an English mother Ella, a Pakistani father George and 7 children, 6 of whom still live at home. The eldest son having dismissed his family to make his own way in the world as a hairdresser, very much disapproved of by his father and very much missed by his mother.
The play begins with a discussion and then inspection of youngest son Sajid. His father is feeling humiliated having discovered that Sajid wasn’t circumcised as he had expected him to have been when first born. This is our first introduction to Auntie Annie, a straight talking Mancunian who throughout the play provides a completely over-the-top and perhaps slightly conventional view of a white female straight talking northern woman. She does this with hysterical dexterity. Here we also meet Ella the wife, played by the wonderful Pauline McLynn (Mrs Doyle for Father Ted fans) whose entire performance is utterly superb. She magnificently portrays a mother who will do absolutely anything for her children and suffers as a consequence, again in a way which I felt was perhaps a bit stereotypical wondered whether totally necessary to get the message across. Multiple cups of tea are made throughout the play by the way.
I thought the audience might rise en-masse when Sajit finally parted company with his Parka and one of the most hysterical moments was when Ella looked at the pictures of her proposed future daughter-in-laws and described them as ‘hefty’. It was all in the timing and Pauline McLynn does this to absolute perfection.
The first half of the play very much sets the scene and with multiple elements does require concentration. The second half really brings the whole play alive with some absolute belly laughs but equally some unexpected difficult moments, a comedy but actually this is a play presenting very real and challenging dilemmas for mixed race families, especially the children, performed in a comedic way but with serious undertones bubbling away beneath the surface. When these erupt they are quite understandable but nevertheless surprising.
I really loved this play, the script is absolutely brilliant and the whole cast are totally believable and deliver a wonderful first class performance. It was a really great night at the theatre. I’m so glad we went and I definitely think you should go too!
Tickets cost from £11.90 to £36.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
East is East at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until 27 June 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7607.
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Exchange Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1UG