Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Review: East Is East (UK Tour) at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

East Is East (UK Tour)
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Set in Salford in the early 1970s, East Is East is touring the UK following its run in the West End last year as part of Jamie Lloyd's Trafalgar Transformed season. A hugely iconic play about growing up in multiracial England, Ayub Khan Din's 1996 play remains remarkably relevant today.

Fresh from a stint in EastEnders, Pauline McLynn takes over from Jane Horrocks as Ella Khan, a mother who would do anything for her children. McLynn delves less into the character's vulnerable side, taking to the stage with immense strength throughout. She grows with the piece, with her act two outburst bringing the house down.

Simon Nagra takes over as George (played by writer Ayub Khan Din during the West End run), a father who wants the best for his family but struggles to deal with growing stress and high levels of expectation from his community. As tensions build he takes the play to a darker place, with passion and love developing into violence and aggression.

Although I missed Horrocks and Khan Din's stellar performances, the play's new leads bring a different dynamic to the piece which works. Once again the younger cast members who play the Khan family are the stars of the show, performing with immense charisma.

Interestingly the audience reaction on tour was very different to what I experienced in the West End. The first time I saw the piece you could feel the horror and intensity from the audience as the piece became darker; however, last night those around me embraced the comedy but seemingly struggled when the play changed direction - I noticed some awkward laughs and uncomfortable glances. 

East Is East is cleverly written, it draws you in but isn't predictable which allows it to have greater impact. I think it has wide appeal, regardless of your age, sex or race there are characters to relate to and situations to identify with.

Admirably Sam Yates' production is layered and detailed. It's common for musicals to tour following West End runs, whereas plays rarely hit the road direct from London - so hats off to Jamie Lloyd and Trafalgar Transformed for taking this fine-tuned, thought provoking production around the UK.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

East Is East runs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until 27th June and tours the UK until 26th September 2015. Please visit for further information, full tour dates and tickets.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner 

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