Review: East Is East at Nottingham Theatre Royal

East Is East, Theatre Royal Nottingham 'Photo by Marc Brenner
East Is East, Theatre Royal Nottingham 'Photo by Marc Brenner

Review by Lucy Roberts

It’s not only a perfect cast of actors, an incredible set and moments of comedy gold that make this revival of modern classic East Is East an instant triumph. It is the play’s timeless messages about cultural boundaries that resonate above all.

Directed by Sam Yates, Ayub Khan Din’s play takes the audience on a complex journey through a snippet of life in 1970s Salford. Pakistani chip shop owner George Khan is determined to give his children a strict Muslim upbringing.

This causes tension to rise as their mother Ella must divide her loyalties between her marriage and the free will of her children.

A colourful display of carefully moulded acting makes the scenes between the Khan children a pleasure to watch, as they jibe and joke and argue with one another constantly. Particularly good performances come from Salma Hoque (Meenah), the feisty daughter, and Adam Karim (Sajit), the twitching teenager who refuses to take off his filthy coat at all costs.

Simon Nagra’s portrayal of George Khan is a very believable and skillful piece of work. His presence on the stage is as unnerving as it is captivating. The turbulent relationship he shares with his wife (Pauline McLynn), who gives as good as she gets, is the real emotional crux of the story, teaching us many lessons about love, frustration and compromise. McLynn’s performance is beautiful, compassionate and strong throughout.

A startling feature of the play is its ability to move effortlessly through moments of pure comedy into those of pure shock and despair. Audience members are like candles, continuously ignited and then put out as the performance builds to its flawless climax.

Aside from being undeniably hilarious, rude and entertaining, East is East is a deep comment on the difficulties of culture difference, a subject as resonant now as it has ever been. Perhaps the best quality of the play is that while exploring these differences to a great degree, it manages to remain admirably impartial.

East is East is running at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday (August 1). Tickets range from £13.50 to £29.50. You can book tickets online at or by calling the box office on 0115 9895555.

Photo by Marc Brenner