REVIEW: East is East – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Ayub Khan Din’s strongly autobiographical play East is East (subsequently turned into a 1999 movie) about a mixed race family growing up in 1970s Salford, arrives in Glasgow this week.

Over-bearing patriarch George (Genghis) Khan is a man desperately trying to keep alive his cultural traditions, but only succeeding in losing his grip on his seven children whose fundamental desire is to be normal British teenagers. George’s answer to his woeful lack of control is to lash out at all around him: bullying his children into arranged marriages; beating his wife, despairing at his daughter’s clothing “she looks like a prostitute” he cries, “it’s her school uniform” replies her mother.

The laughs on the surface of this work sit on much deeper foundations: there are deliberations on identity, what is it like to be neither this nor that – British, Muslim, Pakistani? Perfectly illustrated by the famous lines: “Mam, quick, the Pakis are here!” and “if you want to be a Paki move to Bradford”. But  fundamentally this is a play about family and the love that underpins all, and the struggles here, to a greater or lesser extent, can be heard in most households up and down the land.

For all the comedy and genuine laugh out loud moments, it is a work that also cleverly manages to prompt us into asking just what has changed since both the setting of this work in 1971 and today – so much and yet so little.

The success of East is East can be attributed to two things: the fact that the writing comes from a place of authority; Khan Din’s first hand experiences colour the whole narrative and as such, it has the ring of truth about it, that coupled with a brace of glorious performances from this exceptional ensemble cast, makes the whole thing irresistible.

A thoroughly satisfying evening at the theatre with first-rate writing and an absolutely top-notch cast, miss it and miss out.

Runs until Saturday 15 August 2015 

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