All the Way Home, The Lowry, Salford

 

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The Independent Culture

"We're all being regenerated now," says indomitable Auntie Sheila in the comedy which takes writer Ayub Khan-Din from his Asian world of East is East to white, working-class Salford. Sheila speaks for the many desperate souls who have not been swept along by the investment which has delighted property developers and the aspirational classes, in the land of the old Coronation Street back-to-backs. The theatre we are sitting in is as much a testament to the new money as the shimmering new BBC buildings beyond, but there is a whole world of Auntie Sheilas in the decaying wastelands, five minutes away.

 

Mark Babych's gripping, uproarious production, with its echoes both of Paul Abbott and Caroline Aherne, tells how it is to be among those left behind. The bars on the kitchen window resemble those of a prison cell for good reason. They’re fighting against re-housing because they don't see anything better.

The ex-junkie Sonia, sadly unfulfilled Janet and simple Philip, who is happy with the contents of the biscuit tin, are the ones who didn't find an escape and each is wonderfully realised. Carol did make it out, as far as Didsbury Village, but it is only Brian, a successful London photographer, who has had to travel All the Way Home, joining his five siblings for the imminent death of a sixth, brother Frankie, decaying just like the house, in a room upstairs. They smoke, drink and swear a lot. And they row a lot, delighting in it in a way that families with nothing else to preoccupy them always do. "You're not a good writer if you think you can write only for Asians," Khan-Din said earlier this year and he passes his own test.

This is not original source material but the family scenes are powerful and food draws out the subtle class divisions well. It's not so much the suspicion of the garlic Brian puts on the vegetables that raises the laugh, as the way his siblings try to hide the fact that they're not eating it.

The dinner table scene is the high point. The plot lacks power and resolution as the evening rolls towards its conclusion. But then resolution and regeneration have not always been companions. Khan-Din’s play is set on bonfire night 2002 and on the real streets of Salford the sense of impoverishment is just as deep, nine years on.

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