Friday, 3 July 2015

REVIEW: East is East at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

An adaptation from screen to stage is never easy, especially when the subject is one of most successful and iconic British films of the last twenty years. But there is no doubt about it; this production is a great success in its own right.

Fans of the 1999 film (a play previously) will love the intimacy of this production where story-telling and characters firmly take centre stage. With a largely static set, the actors work hard together to combine minimal scene changes with fluid movement to keep the pace of the show fast and slick.

Ayub Khan Din’s script is packed full of drama, tension, emotion and, crucially, humour. It is the jokes and the laughs that make the darker moments of the story really resonate. Despite the script being nearly 20 years old (and the story older), the themes and tale of the Khan family still feel eerily relevant.

The cast collectively are excellent from start to finish and are all equally skilled at the dramatic and lighter sides of the play. There seems to be a real bond and great chemistry between the Khan siblings, particularly Meenah (Salma Hoque) and Tariq (Ashley Kumar). Adam Karim is brilliant as silent outsider Sajit and works wonderfully with Dharmesh Patel (Abdul) towards the end of the show.

The star of the show was undoubtedly Father Ted star Pauline McLynn as long-suffering mother Ella Khan. Caught between two conflicting cultures and ideologies, she holds the family and this production together. Flowing effortlessly between light and dark, the audience burst into cheers and whooping when she unleashes her powerful tongue on Mr and Mrs Shah.

Her relationship with husband George (Simon Nagra) is another highlight. Seemingly unable to live with or without each other, you long for George to be
more sympathetic and understanding to his wife and family’s needs. Their erupting row in act two is hugely moving and affects the audience as much as their children in the story. Simon Nagra delivers a dominating performance as the overbearing head of the family while stealing some deserved laughs.

This production was wonderful written, beautifully performed and expertly directed by Sam Yates and transferred with ease and simplicity from screen to stage. East is East is a strong, powerful play which will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

Review by Andy Edmeads 


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