Ayub Khan Din’s East is East premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre in November 1996. Directed by Kristine Landon-Smith for the Tamasha Theatre Company in collaboration with the Royal Court and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, it starred Nadim Sawalha as George Khan and Linda Bassett as his wife, Ella.
One of the defining works in British Asian theatre, East is East is an autobiographical play about growing up in 1970s Salford in a large working-class family with a Pakistani dad and an English mum. First staged in Birmingham, productions ran in Sheffield, Salford, London and Bristol during 1996–97, playing to sold-out houses and critical acclaim.
East is East was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy and won the Writers’ Guild Award and the John Whiting Award. Due to its popular and critical success it has been revived every year since 1996, including a 2014 production at the Trafalgar Studios starring Jane Horrocks as Ella Khan and Khan Din himself playing the role of George Khan.
The play was made into a highly successful film in 1999 directed by Damien O’Donnell, winning the BAFTA for Best British Film.
Tamasha Theatre Company
The Tamasha Theatre Company was set up in 1989 by Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar with the aim of bringing contemporary work of Asian influence to the British stage. With successes such as East is East, Tamasha has played a key role in driving the cross-over of Asian culture into the British mainstream. The company was instrumental in getting East is East into production, encouraging Khan Din to attend its writers’ workshop in 1996 where he could develop the play which he had first drafted in the early 1980s.
Today, Tamasha continues to tour and produce work that ‘places the voices of emerging and established artists from culturally diverse backgrounds centre-stage’.