Home » London Theatre Reviews » Review of East is East at the Theatre Royal Brighton

Review of East is East at the Theatre Royal Brighton

East Is EastEast is East is a play about control. George Khan (known to his children as ‘Ghengis’) lives with his English wife and seven childen in Salford, where he has lived since arriving in Britain in the 1950s. He tries to control his family, to keep them away from British influences by organising circumcisions, and arranging marriages, to control his environment by holding fast to every facet of his Pakistani culture and avoiding all taint of English life. He watches and rages impotently as the India-Pakistan conflict is played out before him on radio and television also out of his control. His English wife sees that despite his love for them he is alienating his family but she is unable to take action. This play is billed as a ‘comedy’ but it is actually a very dark play, albeit with some sharp humour, about culture clash and family clash as both children and countries fight for independence. George’s demands on his family force them into deception and rebellion but despite his pain, he cannot let go. His wife, who, despite her constant complaints and criticisms, has never opposed him, is finally prodded into facing up to him in defence of her children in order to free them to live their own lives in a multicultural world. (one of the sons says ‘he’s got no right to tell us what our culture should be.’)

This play is part of a long line of plays about family/cultural struggles, going back to ‘Abie’s Irish Rose.’ What gives this play its special character is the structure, where the problems of family, community and nationality form concentric circles, reflecting each other. It has the eternal problem of first generation immigrants: ‘I am not Pakistani, I was born here,’ says one boy and gets the reply ‘English people don’t want you here,’ a statement that is proved bitterly true. There is also the romanticised allegiance of the immigrant to his background. George’s endless speeches about the superiority of Pakistan are countered by a rebellious son who says ‘if it’s that bloody beautiful how come you haven’t been back for twenty years?’ The answer is heart-breaking silence.

The conflicts inherent in the lives of both parents and children are inevitable, subtle and painful and continually absorbing to watch. The production is mostly very good, accurately evoking (to me anyway) the place and the period, and the acting is for the most part excellent. I have one objection: there is only one character in the play who represents the English community and she is such an unbelievable stereotype, both in the writing and the acting that anyone with a grain of sense would keep his family as far away from her as possible. One empathised with the disgust of her Pakistani counterpart when faced with this vulgarian and thus the balance of the play was thrown. Also, the tomboy daughter was so wildly overplayed that, again, balance was lost. One just wanted her to please, please, calm down.

The sons, on the other hand, were all utterly believable and charming and their dilemmas were genuine and absorbing. Simon Magra gave a strong, if slightly generalised, performance as George. But finally, it was Pauline McLynn who pulled all the themes of the play together, providing the constant motor that kept the pace accurate and who in her final speech was both triumphant and almost unbearably moving. I wanted to stand up and cheer for her.

This play, written by the very talented Ayub Khan Din, raises so many issues and reflects the experiences of such an increasing number of people, not all of them Pakistani by any means, that is not surprising that it has had such huge success since its first performance. It is a play that I, for one, could see again.

3 Star Review


Review by Kate Beswick

Following its sensational West End run as part of the Trafalgar Transformed season, one of the best British comedies delights the nation this summer.
Pakistani chip shop owner George Khan – ‘Genghis’ to his kids – is determined to give his children a strict Muslim upbringing in 1970s Salford. Household tension reaches breaking point as their long-suffering English mother, Ella, gets caught in the cross fire with her loyalties divided between her marriage and the free will of her children.

Award-winning actress Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless and EastEnders) stars as Ella with Simon Nagra (Dara and Rafta Rafta for National Theatre) as George and Ashley Kumar (EastEnders) as Tariq Khan. They are joined by a host of the finest British acting talent completing the Khan family and friends. This critically acclaimed production of Ayub Khan Din’s modern classic promises to be unmissable, as it makes its long awaited return to the stage following the international success of the film.

Thurs 11 – Sat 20 June 2015
Theatre Royal, Brighton

Mon 22 – Sat 27 June 2015
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Mon 29 Jun – Sat 4 July 2015
New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Mon 6 July – Sat 11 July 2015
Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Mon 13 July – Sat 18 July 2015
Princess Theatre, Torquay

Mon 20 – Sat 25 July 2015
Regent Theatre, Stoke On Trent

Mon 3 – Sat 8 August 2015
Grand Opera House, York

Mon 10 – Sat 15 August 2015
Theatre Royal, Glasgow


Friday 19th June2015


Scroll to Top