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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Haymarket - East

27th to 29th March 2003.

This was the Newbury Weekly News review.

Hard-hitter was worth the risk

East, at the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, on Saturday, March 29

Steven Berkoff's gritty portrayal of life in London's East End is brilliantly dramatised in this hilarious production, directed by Michael Fentiman.

With clear warnings in the programme and advertisements about the adult nature of the play, which is definitely not suitable for children, or the easily offended, the cast of five gave an excellent performance, including hard-men pals, Les (Patrick Walker) and Mike (Philip Dale), with graphic details of fights, delivered in Berkoff's rhythmic, poetic dialogue.
Comically choreographed throughout, mainly to the jerky music of Madness, it is full of truly memorable scenes, including Les becoming a 150mph Harley Davidson, ridden by Mike, played to spontaneous applause.

Borrowing from other sources included a ranting, Alf Garnett-like dad (Paul Stephenson) and Monty-Pythonesque Mum (Charlie Fletcher), complete with pinny, slippers and high squeaky voice.

Steyie Doherty gave an equally good performance as Mike's girlfriend, Sylv. Initially fluffy-headed, she skilfully transforms herself, taking on the male persona of the tough guy in her 'speech of longing' to become a man.

Les' Tale of Woe was equally well acted, as he deftly flitted between characters including a 14-year-old girl and slimy shop manager.

The scenery was a brick wall with effective, projected film clips of English seaside resorts and National Front-type marches.

It was a bold and risky move by the Haymarket to stage such a controversial play, rather than the usual safe, middle-of-the-road drama, and heart-warming to see it pay off by attracting a fairly large and, more unusually, a mainly young audience.

Tremendous theatre, and not to be missed by anyone who likes fast, hard-hitting and truly funny drama.