Steven Berkoff, East

Review in Issue 11-3 | Autumn 1999

First performed at the Traverse Theatre by Berkoff’s London Theatre Group at the 1975 Edinburgh Festival Fringe – with Berkoff himself playing Mike – East has clearly survived the test of time.

In Edinburgh once more, prior to its West End run, this production has been meticulously reassembled, under Berkoff’s consummate direction. One gains the impression that East is a piece very close to Berkoff’s heart and that the strong cast were punctiliously hand-picked and subsequently shown little or no mercy in rehearsal.

Each of the five talented performers display a definite understanding of Berkoff’s characters, and execute their roles with powerful vocal and physical precision. Matthew Cullum and Christopher Middleton work seamlessly together as the two East End ‘youfs’, Mike and Les – emerging as frighteningly feasible characters, in both their vicious sparring and displays of coarse camaraderie. Tanya Franks, as the sexy and sassy Sylv, entices and rebuffs the pair admirably. Her soliloquies are particularly poignant, as she interprets Berkoff’s text with a rare clarity, mastering the combination of crass humour and subtle emotion, to present an empathetic character who possesses attitude as well as a certain longing.

Jonathan Linsley and Edward Bryant make an equally well-balanced tragicomic couple as Mum and Dad, highlighting some humorous characteristics of East End life, alongside illustrations of the painfully habitual nature and potential emptiness of some long-term relationships

The fluidity and verve of this production make this a compelling piece of theatre, with themes and characters as relevant today as they were twenty five years ago.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-3
p. 20