East is East follows the life of Pakistani chip-shop owner George Khan – ‘Genghis’ to his kids -who is determined to give his children a strict Muslim upbringing in 1970s Salford. The household tension reaches breaking point as their long-suffering mother, Ella, gets caught in the cross-fire with her loyalties divided between her marriage and the free-will of her children as they learn of an arranged marriage.
This an outstanding piece of writing; first staged in 1996 and subsequently becoming a highly successful film adaptation Ayub Khan Din explores with great empathy and occasional comedy the conflicts of a changing world on a British Asian family.
Unfortunately little of the poetry and tragedy are related in this production. There is a strident monotonous delivery of lines which betrays the very heart of the piece. There is little to empathise with and the characters are generally two dimensional which in turn undermines the true conflicts and leaves too many situations open to unnecessary humour.
Pauline Mclynn as Ella Khan the long suffering wife of George, finds opportunities to reflect on her relationship with her children and husband but the direction is such that the moments of biting tenderness in the script are subsequently missed and redundant.
The children have little chemistry and whilst it is clear that they would run to the support of their mother, the threats of their father to burn the house down and kill them in their beds is filled with melodrama rather than the sheer terror that the script demands.
There is little to believe in on this occasion and whilst there was predominantly laughter in the house last night, a little light and shade in the delivery might have achieved the response to the story that the original script was striving to evoke.