In an exciting new revival from the winners of the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award 2016 (Life According to Saki), Steven Berkoff’s masterpiece East opens 2018 at the King’s Head Theatre, where it made its London debut in 1975.
Full of wit, lust, and fury, East remains a startlingly original and influential piece of theatre – a triumphant shout of youth and energy. Its language veers from Shakespearean verse to the depths of profanity without missing a beat, teeming with life in all its murk and glory. East catapults us into the rowdy youth of Mike and Les as they fight over Mike’s girl Sylv and become unexpected allies. Assaultive, riotously funny, and entirely unapologetic, we are lured into their tall-tales of felony and bravado and we come to recognise their brutal kind of charm. Sylv knows her most potent weapon is her sexuality, but she still has the spit and pluck to level with the boys. Meanwhile, Mum and Dad live separate inner lives, both coming alive in the flickering light of memories, recalling lives they once led – or wish they had.
Bringing East to life at the King’s Head Theatre will be Russell Barnett (Hamlet, The Riverside Theatre; The Tempest, The Drayton), Jack Condon (Housed, The Old Vic; Clybourne Park, RADA; Scuttlers, RADA), James Craze (The Beginning of the End, Hull Truck Theatre and Theatre N16; Home Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East; Ernie – a One Man Play by James Craze), Debra Penny (Our Country’s Good, National Theatre; Flowers of the Forest, Jermyn Street Theatre; Martha Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Bolton Octagon and tour) and Boadicea Ricketts (professional debut). Carol Arnopp (Freelance keys, RTÉ Concert Orchestra; Children’s Musical Director, The Magic Flute, Cork Opera House) will take the role of the pianist and musical director.
Director Jessica Lazar comments, East’s characters are violent and relentless and sometimes grotesque, but they are also electrically funny, brutally charming. They leap from frustrated dreams and fantastic nightmares to punch-drunk reality and back again. They don’t ask to be pitied. East resonates so powerfully in the mood of 2017/18 because Berkoff sought to turn “a welter of undirected passion and frustration into a positive form”. But it is also, put simply, a brilliant play. Berkoff’s East still feels amazingly relevant today as it yanks us into interior worlds, rioting in unfulfilled dreams and explosions of longing, leaving no room for polite middle ground. Although set in Berkoff’s hometown of London, he has explained that East could be set on any east side of any city. East will be directed by Life According to Saki director Jessica Lazar. Set and costume will be by Anna Lewis, a Jerwood Young Designer, MGC Futures Bursary Holder, and Offie Nomine (Costume Design – After October, Finborough). Sound and lighting will be by Dublin-based David Doyle, previous winner of the Best Theatre Award at the Adelaide Fringe and the NSDF Commendation for Lighting Design at the Edinburgh Fringe.