East is a play that has been on my mind for years. I was introduced to the world of Berkoff at the age of seventeen and ever since I have had such a love for physical theatre, and scripts that know of no boundaries, and aren’t afraid to explore spaces where few choose to go. After closely watching my two favorite directors in Durham and how they approach every aspect of a production, and having opened my mind to an abyss of new ideas regarding theatre, I realized last year I was finally ready to direct this production.
Not only do the characters, and the script itself, provoke ideas that I care strongly about, this is a play that really allowed me to make my own, yet stay true to Berkoffian ideas when it came to planning and staging it. It allowed me to completely create my own vision when considering how I choreographed each scene, how I approached each character with my actors, and it allowed me to create what I hope an audience shall regard as a visual spectacle when it came to the set and the tech. I am always seeking to find new ideas and innovation when it comes to theatre and in terms of my set and tech I am therefore forever indebted to my Tech Director Sam Humphriss and my Artistic Designer Shahnaz Alia Ford for achieving the vision I outlined for them in these areas.
Like many Berkoffian plays, East is very self-aware and meta-theatrical, and I have intentionally explored this element of the play in my production. Those not as acquainted to this type of theatre may find this very alien, so I have staged it in a way that I believe is as interesting to the eyes as I could achieve. During Les’ first monologue I have staged it in a way where the actors interaction with the tech is vital. However, the method of creating the visuals that I use in this scene is vastly different to how this form of staging is usually achieved. This is because I wanted to explore methods of visuals in a way that stayed true to Berkoffian ideas and the themes of the play. At many times in the play we see these characters acting in a certain way, conforming to gender roles and not allowing the audience to see who they really are. Thus, when you view this scene I hope you agree that actually being able to see how this method of staging is achieved is not only very interesting in itself, but actually aids presenting this side of the characters.
Indeed, on the subject of the characters, I cannot but show my eternal gratitude to my wonderful cast. They have been more responsive to direction than I could ever ask for and collaborating with them to achieve the most detailed versions of their characters as possible has been so fulfilling. They have done nothing but give their everything to this production, whether this being completing a ten hour a day rehearsal program for the first week or always giving every piece of energy to a scene that they posses, I am nothing but proud of each and every one of them.
Furthermore, this play powerfully, and I believe effectively, showcases the lives of the socially oppressed, not just in East London, but all over the world and in almost any time period. The ideas it provokes are transcending and I believe it’s vital that a Durham audience are reminded of these thought provoking notions that can often be forgotten. However, Berkoff presents them in a beautiful language in a script that at its heart is entertaining. Hence, even if you do not fully understand everything that occurs in the pay, or if some of what you see shocks you, I can only ask you to be open minded to other aspects of the play. East is unlikely to appeal to everybody, but I do believe that it is versatile enough to appeal in some way to most, hence why I have had such a tight focus on bringing out not just the social and human ideas suggested in the script, but also the comedy, the warmth, and the entertaining nature of this play. Berkoff’s world can often be very dark, but as our tech shall hopefully prove, even in the dark there is light.