EastEnders Meets Clockwork Orange... In Islington

East, King's Head Theatre ★★★★★

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 77 months ago

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Last Updated 12 January 2018

EastEnders Meets Clockwork Orange... In Islington East, King's Head Theatre 5

Prime your ears: they're in for an onslaught of mouth-wateringly grotesque monologues about farting in bed, the nuances of women's genitalia, and the skull-smashing exploits of Mosley's Cable Street brownshirts.

The olde world vernacular of Steven Berkoff's East ("OK I'll bung thee a snout, Les") pitches the vibe somewhere between Shakespeare, Anthony Burgess and EastEnders — timeless, in other words, so that over 40 years later, the script still stings with raw, half-palatable poetry from the author's childhood gritty stomping ground of Commercial Road and its associated backwaters.

Scratch that — 'gritty' barely does enough to invoke the kind of breakfast table conversation that'd have Dirty Den spluttering out his cornflakes.

Yet weaponising words is only half the story here. Berkoff has a penchant for pumping his plays full of kineticism, and the cast's ability to sketch scenes using little else but their bodies, drags us into nightclub dust-ups, mucky backseat cinema fumbles — and the full horror, and horrific boredom, of the characters' so-called lives.  

We don't mind saying it — East is such a fetid, ash-tray-gobbed fireworks display of a play, that once it's over, it's a relief to step out into the middle class bosom of Upper Street.

East, King's Head Theatre, Islington, until 3 February

All images © Alex Brenner