Theatre Review: EAST IS EAST – Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Kulvinder Ghir as GEORGE KHAN in EAST IS EAST at Bolton Octagon

Kulvinder Ghir as GEORGE KHAN in EAST IS EAST at Bolton Octagon. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

Ayub Khan Din’s award-winning comedy EAST IS EAST feels as fresh and as funny as ever

EAST IS EAST may be more than twenty years old but Ayub Khan Din’s award-winning comedy feels as fresh and as funny as ever in a hilarious new production at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre.

Set in 1970s Salford, EAST IS EAST tells the story of the Khan family. Proud Pakistani George Khan (Kulvinder Ghir) is adamant that his family should conform “traditional” Pakistani values but his children, who have been born and bred in England, have other ideas. Caught between bell-bottoms and arranged marriages, can the family survive the clashing cultures or will mother Ella (Jane Hazlegrove) be forced to choose between her husband and her children?

Funny and affecting, EAST IS EAST is a hilarious and heartbreaking story of what happens when two cultures collide within one family. Mixing high drama with moments of comedy, Director Ben Occhipinti perfectly captures the essence of Ayub Khan Din’s play to deliver a wonderfully enjoyable and moving production. Controversial and complex subjects are tackled in an entertaining manner, while Amanda Stoodley 1970s set design ensures that the sense of time and place is never lost.

The cast of EAST IS EAST at Bolton Octagon

The cast of EAST IS EAST at Bolton Octagon. Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

Much of the strength of this production lies in the talented cast with Kulvinder Ghir stealing the show as George, the patriarch of the family. Turning from a ridiculous figure of fun to a sudden and violent monster, Ghir balances humour and pathos to portray the complex character and the final scene in which he loses everything he’s worked for is heart-breaking to watch.

Jane Hazlegrove delivers an equally strong performance as mum Ella. While her character is a little clichéd, her sympathetic portrayal makes the character believable and her natural interaction with her ‘children’ is touching to watch.

Elsewhere, Claire Hackett shines as ‘Auntie Annie’, delivering the show’s best comedic moments, particularly when Mr Shah visits the Khans. All of the children are also strong, particularly Mitesh Soni as Abdul and Shila Iqbal as Meenah.

While EAST IS EAST may be set in an era so far removed from today, its underlying themes of culture, identity, loss and belonging still resonate today and the comedy feels as fresh and funny.

This slick and polished production also captures the genuine atmosphere of a family under duress, balancing laughs with heartbreak in a perfectly paced piece that is sad, touching, insightful and funny, all in equal measure.

(4 / 5)

EAST IS EAST runs at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton until 14 April 2018.

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1