East at the King’s Head Theatre
This rendition of Steven Berkoff’s East is a raucous vernacular comedy laced with melancholy and despair, fittingly returned to its original home on Upper street by the Atticist theatre company, winners of the 2016 Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award.
East debuted at the King’s Head theatre in 1975, and while life has changed in immeasurable ways, the pains and suffering of our five-strong cast can resonate just as deeply today. The play ostensibly centres on the young duo Mike (James Craze) and Les (Jack Condon), and to a lesser extent Sylv (Boadicea Ricketts). Messrs Mike and Les are the kings of their manor and the rulers of now, but as the piece progresses they have to face up to the concept that the city is bigger than the manor, and that the now is ephemeral.
The Dad’s (Russell Barnett) bitter racism and deluded pining for the past acts as a grim warning to the young boys of where their lives could soon land. This character’s woes are somewhat pertinent to the anguish pervading many in today’s society, and there may have been room to explore a more modern angle, however, the production sticks true to Berkoff’s vision, and it does so excellently. Every actor plays their part in this intimate space; there is a tangible chemistry between our three young actors that’s particularly electrifying to observe.
The play is interwoven by numerous soliloquies, each one detailing the profound struggle the speaker is fighting, which mantles the story with a sense of regret – regret at not having a different life, regret over the decisions that led them to this way of living and, in arguably the most powerful delivery, Sylv despairs over a woman’s role in this most unforgiving of worlds.
On seeing this production, theatregoers will laugh, they’ll gasp – an act set in a cinema will draw an emphatic chorus of disbelief – and ultimately they will leave the theatre thoroughly entertained by this foul-mouthed homage to the East End.
Photo: Alex Brenner.
East is at the King’s Head Theatre from 9th January until 3rd February 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.