This show finished on Friday 22 January 2016, and this page is being kept for archival purposes only.



Friday 22 January 2016


Bedlam Theatre




Steven Berkoff


Bedfest 2016


Forty years after it premiered at the Traverse Theatre for the 1975 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Steven Berkoff’s ‘East – Elegy for the East and its Energetic Waste’ will be performed for the first time at Bedlam Theatre as part of Bedlam Festival. This, Berkoff’s first play, is a personal and affectionate look at the hardships of growing up in the East End of London in the 50s and 60s. This play explores the language, the culture and the humanity the East End.

The play centres on two friends in their late teens, Mike and Les, Mike’s girlfriend, Sylv and Mike’s parents, Mum and Dad. Sex and Violence is the order of the day in East and the characters gleefully display all the qualities we suppress in ourselves. Berkoff confronts us with all the uglier parts of our human nature. In his Author’s Note he remarks how one critic described the play as ‘filthy beyond the call of duty’. And yet, under the skin, the writing is so sensitive that what shocks most is not the ‘filth’, but how endearing these characters can be.

Written in verse, ‘East’ has many classical references and uses rich mock-Shakespearean language. By writing in this unique style Berkoff writes that he ‘[took the play] further into ritual and yet defined it with a distinct edge’. He uses these stylistic flourishes to elevate his characters (the kinds of people so often shunned by polite society) from the dirt, to the position of the gods and titans, the kings and generals of our theatrical tradition.

Berkoff makes us take another look at those who are easily dismissed as criminals or undesirables. Just as Mike and Les see themselves as the Greek heroes of their corner of the world, so are they presented to us. Although the Cockney East End as seen is this play is a world now lost, too much is alive and still violently kicking about this play to call it an elegy, as Berkoff subtitles it. Nothing significant has been buried, the accents and the fashions perhaps, but not the substance.

I like to think of it rather as ‘a mythology for the East End’.

Cast and Crew


Assistant Director Ethan Ennals

Costume and Make-Up / Stage Manager Sarah Brown

Dad Brett McCarthy Harrop

Director Vicente Macia-Kjaer

Les Celeste MacIlwaine

Mike Michael Hajiantonis

Moral Support Rafe Jennings

Mum Rob Younger

Producer Callie Stylianou

Producer Grace Lyle Condon

Producer Marina Johnson

Sylv Esme Allman

Review for East -

Tuesday 26 January - By Damo Bullen for Mumble Theatre

“Absolutely brilliant”

“All five were wonderful to watch”

“A passionate performance all round”

Show All Shows