West Sussex Gazette

Anniversar­y production of East is East

- Phil Hewitt Group Arts Editor

George Khan wants to raise his family the proper Pakistani way but hasn’t counted on the distractio­ns of 70s Salford.

Abdul and Tariq aren’t ready to be married off, Saleem is pushing artistic boundaries, Meenah’s skirt is too short and Sajid just wants to hide in his parka. Can mum Ella keep the family together?

The play is Ayub Khan Din’s East Is East and it is coming to Chichester Festival Theatre from November 3 to 6 in a Birmingham Rep and National Theatre co-production marking the play’s 25th anniversar­y.

Tony Jayawarden­a (Ackley Bridge, The Crown, Bend It Like Beckham) is delighted to play George. “I was offered the role in May and I had been 18 months without theatre which is absolutely the longest time without theatre in my career.

“It was hard and also financiall­y, but I was lucky that I could do some filming between lockdown one and two.

“But it is more the emotional and the mental difficulty of not being able to do it. It just makes you realise that I don’t do this as a job. It is an important part of my life, just being in the room with these people rehearsing and performing. It is so much part of who I am.

“I think I did always assume that we would be able to come back one day, but it was tricky especially in the light of the first lockdown when it was clear that the arts were not massively a priority which was understand­able to some degree.

“But it makes people question things. But I’m lucky as a performer that I know directors and casting directors that want me for work, and I just feel really fortunate about that.

“But the theatre… For me theatre is what I started doing at school and it was how I was trained, really much more for theatre than for TV or film.

“It is the thing that I have got more experience in and I think I have the greater skill at.

“I don’t think I could ever give up the theatre but at the same time you need the screen work because it gives you, I guess, more opportunit­ies and gets your name out there, and certainly financiall­y screen work is important because it means that you can maintain your theatre work in some ways.

“I have been lucky that I have been part of Ackley Bridge and that has allowed me to pick and choose the theatre that I do to some extent which means that I can really attack the theatre that I do do.

“With East Is East, like a lot of people, I really remember the impact of the film. It was the first time that you saw British Asian characters taking centre stage, certainlyi­nmylifetim­e.”

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 ?? ?? Tony Jayawarden­a who plays George in East is East at Chichester Festival Theatre
Tony Jayawarden­a who plays George in East is East at Chichester Festival Theatre

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