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Berkoff’s East, A Director’s View

Director Kelly-Kim Cranstoun talks about her SLT directorial debut East. Set in the East End in the late 1960s, the play features the London of Berkoff’s own adolescence.

East-03What are the play’s core themes?

East is at once a celebration and critique of the performance of masculinity. Berkoff acted in the film of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange just before he wrote the play, and the language is certainly reminiscent of the film, with the same extreme metaphoric pressure, kinetic energy and ecstatic violence. Unlike A Clockwork Orange though, East celebrates the “energetic waste” of youth, and is an exuberant aria of damage and desire. It’s provocative and pushes boundaries.”

Why did you choose to direct this play in particular?

“I’ve always been into theatre that provokes emotion. It’s an incredibly powerful tool and if the audience walks out of the theatre and feels the need to talk about the play – whether their view is good or bad – I feel we will have succeeded. I studied Berkoff and was fascinated by how physically unnatural the plays were, yet I always found myself lost in his Shakespearian-esque language and his stories.

The challenge lies in the fact that Berkoff plays are a mix of Stanislavski, Brechtian and Physical Theatre rolled into one. East requires the cast to delve into uncomfortable situations, and to act them out in an exaggerated and gruesome manner, so the cast need to feel happy enough to show this to an intimate audience with no holds barred.”

Does this mean the audience will be challenged as much as the actors?

East-02East is a play with no hiding places, either as an actor and as an audience member. As an audience, please come with an open mind and allow yourselves to be immersed in the play. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing something different and allow yourselves to be taken on a journey. You may leave the theatre feeling emotionally beaten up and slightly embarrassed by what you’ve just witnessed, but that’s the magic behind Berkoff’s plays!”

You must have a strong cast?

“Yes! I’m so thrilled to be working with them. The cast is comprised of three new and incredibly talented SLT members that wowed me in the auditions, as well as two magnificent established SLT members. It’s a great mix and rehearsals have been extremely exciting!”