Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh
Script Stagecraft Performance
In 1975, Steven Berkoff’s gritty slice of 70s cockney life found itself premiering at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, to an international audience. Four decades later it returned to its spiritual home city in the hands of Edinburgh University’s finest up & comers, as part of the annual Bedlam Festival. And it was absolutely brilliant! The action began with a pretty live piano tinkle as our five protagonists sat in the dark on their chairs. Then up they stood, all booming voices and cool assurity as they ripped the shit out of Berkoff’s urban masterpiece.
East is a masticulated mix of Shakesperean dialogue & cockney street chit-chat, a wide open window into 70s Britain that contains timeless truths. Bovver-boots, manors, & visceral curses combine in a swirl of iambic pentameters such as ,’which we have well & truly robbed since then.‘ To these add phrases such as ‘piss off thou lump‘ & we witness the acute genius of Berkoff’s mind & discover how poetical the English language can be, in whatever dialect or situation it is spoken.
Junior thespians they may be, but Michael Hijiantonis (Mike), Celeste Macllwaine’s (Les), Esme Allman (Sylve), Brett McCarthy Harrop (Dad) & Rob Younger (Mum) were wonderful to watch, with a chemistry reinforced from the social integrations of their time together, carefree & footloose in the prime of their lives. The use of invisible props was excellent, especially a dodgem scene – proper funny – & combined with the nifty lighting really sucked you into Berkoff’s vision. They’ve got massive potential this lot, & gave a passionate performance all roun… it’ll be interesting to see how their careers pan out.
Reviewer : Damo Bullen