Based on the 1999 movie with the same name, East is East tells the story of a working class Pakistani family living in the heart of Salford in the early 1970s.

Chip shop owner, George ‘Ghenghis’ Khan, (Simon Nagra), expects his family to follow his strict Pakistani Muslim ways, but his 7 children, (6 sons and 1 daughter), having an English mother, Ella, (Pauline McLynn), understandably feel that they are more British than Pakistani.

Ella is stuck in the middle of her husband and children which at times puts a strain on their relationship. Whilst she does not want to upset her George and respects his Muslim beliefs, she also understands that her children, being the only Muslim family in the area, want to fit in with their peers and hate being seen as “the Paki family” as the locals refer to them as. This means breaking most of George’s rules; from eating forbidden bacon, to pursuing a career in Art and wearing “miniskirts” (which is actually a knee length school skirt that George refers to, and insists his daughter changes into trousers the moment she returns home from school.)

George on the other hand, expects his children to follow Muslim traditions and arranges marriages for two of the older sons, much to their disapproval, and aspires that they will take over the family business in the future.

It highlights a variety of pertinent and sensitive themes, from identity, diversity, religion, war, death, to domestic violence and the human anatomy! Growing up is difficult enough - trying to find your own identity, dealing with typical teenage angst but growing up in the ‘70s in a mixed race family and being seen to the rest of the town as outcasts and “different” whilst having conflicting forces of a Western education and a strict Pakistani father make life much more of a challenge for the Khan children.

The staging focuses around a typical working class row of terraced houses with appropriate 70s decor, with the majority of the story taking place in the Khans’ living room, and changing cleverly with the cast into the Chip Shop, a hospital and the Khan’s living room. The costume changes are few and the set is fairly minimal, but this works fantastically and makes the performance seem more intimate. One can almost feel as if they were part of the Khan’s living room!

The show previously had a successful run in the West Ends’ Trafalgar Studios in 2014, (which I was lucky enough to see twice!) I was very pleased to see that two of the London cast are part of the tour - Sally Bankes (Auntie Annie) and Ashley Kumar (Tariq Khan). Writer (Ayub Khan Din) originally starred as George Khan in the London productions, alongside Jane Horrocks as Ella Khan, I was sad to see that neither had continued in their roles for the tour, however, Pauline McLynn and Simon Nagra played the roles of George and Ella with great ease. Audiences empathised with Pauline as the long-suffering Ella, caught in the crossfire of her husband’s strict Muslim ways and the desire to give her children the freedom to make their own decisions in life. Simon was equally convincing as a rather scary and strict father whose loyalties lay within his own strict Muslim upbringing, so much so that he does not see how much of a divide it is bringing upon his family.

The plot flows effortlessly and hits a variety of emotions. The stand of the performance of the night most definitely has to be Sally Bankes, who although has one of the smaller roles, fills the stage with her infectious raucous laugh, Northern wit and humour and warm personality.

The tour of East is East is equally as fantastic as the London production. This critically acclaimed production of Ayub Khan Din’s modern classic is definitely not one to be missed and audiences are in for a fantastic laugh out loud performance!

Age guidance 12 years +


East is East is at the Lyceum Theatre from Monday 7 – Saturday 12 September. Tickets can be purchased from Sheffield Theatres’ Box Office in-person, by phone on 0114 249 6000 or online HERE and are priced from £14.00 – £29.00 (a transaction fee of £1.50 (£1.00 online) applies to all bookings made at the Box Office, excluding cash), and discounts are available.


Reviewer: Charlotte Davis-Browne

Reviewed: 7th September 2015