From Dead Ringers yesterday, 6 August: "I'm worried, Sharon. Everywhere you look the East End is getting all poncey". Well, there's absolutely no danger of that in this banging production of Steven Berkoff's slash and grab take on the (old) East End of London. Mortification for your late teens; a knackered, bitter-sweet past for their parents. In the hands and mouths of this young company, East is as outrageous and as provocative as ever.
Les and Mike can buy beer for ninepence a pint, and will chase skirt up and down the 19 and 38 bus routes – from Piccadilly to the Balls Pond Road – for as long as it takes. Mum, 24 floors up, would rather pick a new coffee percolator from the Green Shield Stamps shop than even think about sex with Dad. Sylv is ok about the sex, but knows that the boys just look at her as a carnal playground, "a veritable Butlins". Sylv wants out: out from under Mike, and out of Stepney.
But it's the ensemble work that commands respect. The cast is always on stage, and you're barely three metres from it, so the mime has to be whip-smart and the physical theatre nimble. They are. There is Berkoff's terrific invention of the motor bikes (mine's a Vincent, squire) and the fun of the fair and the thrill of the flicks and – magnificently, appallingly – Mike going all the way as a hands-on obstetrician.
Those antics apart, there's the overlapping, textured language to enjoy. For a moment I heard Alex in A Clockwork Orange – "What words could my gob sprach?" – and then you're back in Whitechapel, where a lad in Dr Martens boots would "bestride Commercial Street like a colossus". The oratory can be Shakespearian, nothing cod about it; as is the onrush, through nineteen episodic scenes, of misspent passion and ignoble, immodest truths.
The performances were so committed, grotesque and yet sympathetic, that, there in the confines of the Vault I had the very odd thought of submitting the characters of East to Channel 4's Gogglebox as real-life viewers. They could fetch ratings to rival EastEnders.
Oh, and there’s one thing I forgot to mention… This is a cast of 18-year-olds. The director is Lucy Vincent, head of Performing Arts at Harrogate Grammar School, and the producer is Callum Finch, a 2nd Year student on RADA's Technical Theatre and Stage Management Course. On this evidence, successful future careers in the theatre are dead certs for all of them.