Chichester: East Is East is kitchen-sink drama at its best

East Is East, Chichester Festival Theatre, until Saturday

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 2:34 pm
East Is East
East Is East

Kitchen sink drama is the bedrock of British entertainment.

What goes on within families when the front door closes has inspired countless TV soaps and an almost infinite variety of theatrical treatments.

East Is East is amongst the best of them.

Set in Salford some time in the early 1970s, it revolves around a mixed race British Pakistani family and their fish and chip shop run by dad George (Tony Jayawardena) in which they are all expected to work.

The humour sparkles - at its best as they appraise the pictures of the women assigned to be the son's new wives - but there are no subjects out of bounds. Arranged marriages, circumcision, religious values, and racist abuse, are all themes which bind this plot together.

But the darkest moments are to be found in those scenes of domestic abuse and violence.

Perhaps it is no accident that in Ayub Khan Din's story, the women shine the brightest. Terrific performances not least from Sophie Stanton as Ella - the wife who takes responsibility for keeping the peace no matter her personal cost.

As the children reappraise their parents' values there is a potent sense of both the desire for change, for something better and different, and for conformity to and unity within a family unit which exists in a hostile land.

But despite the repression and bleakness of so much of this family's world - there is warmth and compassion too.

This is a play where charm and empathy outweigh its darkest moments.